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Malaysia Airlines: Did missing flight MH370 end up on dry land? China searches its own territory for plane

Background checks on all 154 Chinese nationals did not uncover any evidence suggesting they were involved in hijacking or an act of terrorism, officials say

By Heather Saul

The hunt for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 moved inland, as China confirmed it had started searching its territory for the stricken plane.

Huang Huikang, the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, said that search and rescue operations in the Chinese territories of the northern corridor had begun, Xinhua news agency reported.

Mr Huang also confirmed that background checks on Chinese nationals did not uncover any evidence suggesting they were involved in hijacking or an act of terrorism against the plane.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also told a briefing that China had deployed 20 satellites to search for the missing jetliner in Chinese territory which covers a northern corridor through which the aircraft could have flown.

Meanwhile, desperate family members of missing passengers aboard the flight MH370 have threatened to go on hunger strike.

Speaking to reporters, a woman who had led chants during the news briefing calling on authorities to "respect life, tell us the truth!" said the families were calling for a hunger strike.

"Respect life, return our relatives" she said. "We're going on hunger strike. I'm representing.

"The families are on the point of collapse. There are so many families coming and going, some have already left. The young people can stand it, but the elderly have already broken down," she shouted.

In a news conference today, Malaysian authorities said they have contacted every country with relevant satellite data and requested deep sea detection to assist in the search. Search efforts remain focused on the southern and northern corridors, officials added.

The Malaysian Defence Minister told Reuters he has spoken to the US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel about the use of satellite data.

Hishammuddin Hussein denied reports that Malaysia had discouraged the Federal Bureau of Investigation from sending a team to Malaysia.

"I have been working with them," he said. "It's up to the FBI to tell us if they need more experts to help because it's not for us to know what they have."

Today, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said that while it had narrowed down the search area using satellite data, the region in the southern Indian Ocean was still "vast".

Amsa Emergency Response General Manager John Young said: "A needle in a haystack remains a good analogy," warning that there is "a difficult task ahead".

The Malaysian Airlines jet disappeared with its 239 passengers and crew less than one hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Malaysian authorities say that someone on board the flight switched off two vital pieces of communication equipment, allowing the plane to fly almost undetected.

Satellite data shows it might have ended up somewhere in a giant arc stretching from Central Asia to the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

A massive search operation in the Indian Ocean and beyond has yet to find any trace of the plane.

Malaysian military radar spotted the plane in the northern reaches of the Strait of Malacca at 2.14 am on 8 March. That is the plane's last known confirmed position.

A signal to a satellite from the plane at 8.11 am suggests that, by then, it was somewhere in a broad arc spanning from Kazakhstan to the Indian Ocean west of Australia.

Officials searching for missing Flight MH370 are investigating whether whoever was in control of the plane when it veered off course deliberately flew low to avoid detection by military radar.

An international team of investigators is said to be probing the possibility that the plane hugged close to the ground to avoid detection – a technique used by military pilots.

On Sunday it was revealed that the final message sent to air traffic controllers from the jet's cockpit - “ All right, good night” - was spoken after someone on board had already disabled the plane's ACARS reporting system.

That conversation between air traffic controllers and the cockpit took place at 1.19am as officials warned the pilots they were about to leave Malaysian airspace on route to Beijing. The response “All right, good night,” apparently came from Fariq Abdul Hamid, the co-pilot.

At least 26 countries are now assisting in the search for the plane, intensifying challenges of co-ordinating ground, sea and aerial efforts.

Additional reporting by agencies


Further reading:

No Chinese terror link to jetliner

Missing jet could have lost height to avoid detection

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Did 'terrain masking' allow plane to elude radars? 

Search expanded for missing plane 

Recording casts suspicion on pilots 

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