Malaysia Airlines said it was “fearing the worst” on Sunday for a plane carrying 239 people that went missing more than 24 hours ago, as the government said it was investigating four passengers who may have held false identity documents.
There were no reports of bad weather and no sign of why Flight MH370 would have vanished from radar screens off the coast of Vietnam about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing early on Saturday morning.
European officials said it appeared two people on board were using stolen passports and Malaysian Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said authorities were also checking the identities of two other passengers.
“All the four names are with me,” said Hishamuddin, who is also defence minister. “I have indicated to our intelligence agencies and I have also spoken to international intelligence agencies for assistance.”
He said help was also being sought from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, an attack was only one of the possibilities being investigated.
“We are looking at all possibilities,” he said. “We cannot jump the gun. Our focus now is to find the plane.”
The Chinese official Xiamen Daily reported that one of the passengers who was supposed to be on the flight, according to the manifest, was at home in China. The name on the passport and the passport number did not match, according to the newspaper.
It was not immediately clear if the Chinese person’s identity was among those being investigated.
There were no confirmed signs of the plane or any wreckage on Sunday, well over 24 hours after it went missing. Search operations continued through the night, officials said.
“In fearing for the worst, a disaster recovery management specialist from Atlanta, USA, will be assisting Malaysia Airlines in this crucial time,” the airline said in a statement.
Vietnamese naval boats sent from the holiday island of Phu Quoc patrolled stretches of the Gulf of Thailand, searching for any wreckage, scouring the area where an oil slick was spotted by patrol jets just before nightfall on Saturday.
“Our two rescue boats have approached the two oil spills since 3 am today but we haven’t found any sign of the Malaysian plane yet. Other boats are ready to go to support if needed,” Admiral Ngo Van Phat told Reuters.
There were no indications of sabotage nor claims of an attack. But the passenger manifest issued by the airline included the names of two Europeans – continued…