US, Philippines join international search for missing Malaysia Air plane

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

March 10. 2014

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The United States and the Philippines have joined a team of international searchers who have been working with Malaysian authorities in scouring the Gulf of Thailand, part of the South China Sea, where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was believed to have disappeared three days ago.

The Boeing 777-200 took off from Kuala Lumpur past midnight on Saturday (local time) and was scheduled to arrive in Beijing at 6:30 am the same day. But around 1:30 am, air traffic controllers outside Kuala Lumpur lost contact with the plane, as it was flying over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. Two hundred thirty-nine people were on board — 227 passengers and 12 crew members.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that there are no Filipino nationals on board. U.S. authorities said there are three U.S. citizens on the plane. For now, it is still unclear if any of the passengers are of Filipino descent.

Could this be an act of terror? Authorities said, what they know so far, is that two of the passengers were using stolen passports. The pair reportedly bought their tickets together from China Southern Airlines and were traveling as Italian and Austrian citizens.

Meantime, officials are looking into the possibility that the plane reversed course and may have plummeted to the ocean in the process. But the pilot apparently gave no signal to authorities that he was turning around. And no distressed call was issued from the plane.

So far, investigators have yet to discover a single piece of wreckage.

As the international community continues its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, another Malaysia Airlines flight was canceled in Manila, reportedly due to a technical problem. Malaysia Airlines was forced to cancel a Boeing 738 flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport bound for Kuala Lumpur on Monday (local time). That plane was carrying 120 passengers and an infant.

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