Communications on a missing Malaysia Airlines jet were deliberately disabled and the last signal from the plane came more than seven hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up anywhere from the southern Indian Ocean to Central Asia, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday.
Najib’s announcement confirmed days of mounting speculation that the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 239 people on board was not accidental. It means the investigation will now focus on who may have taken control of the plane and why, and that the search area will be vastly expanded, he said.
“Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase,” Najib said. “We hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane.”
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Flight 370 departed from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing at 12:40 a.m. March 8, and latest available satellite data showed the last confirmed signal from the plane to a satellite was at 8:11 a.m.
Najib said authorities are now trying to trace the airplane missing for more than a week across two possible “corridors” _ a northern corridor from northern Thailand through to the border of Kazakstan and Turkmenistan, and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
Najib said that searching in the South China Sea, where the plane first lost contact with air traffic controllers, would be ended. He said the new search corridors were based on the latest satellite data.
Earlier authorities have said the plane had enough fuel to fly for up to about eight hours.