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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Inmarsat washes hands off 'ended in ocean' theory


DAY 22 MH370 Updates and latest coverage as search for MH370 continues.

Today marks exactly three weeks since Malaysian Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 mysteriously diverted towards the Indian Ocean from its original destination Beijing, and vanished.

Yesterday, with new information the Australian-led search party for the Boeing 777-200ER shifted its search area 1,100 kilometres northeast from the original site.

A multinational team of 10 aircraft combed the area yesterday with six ships due to arrive today. Satellites are also being retrained on the new area.

Five aircraft have already reported spotting suspicious objects floating on the ocean, and Chinese Maritime Administration patrol ship Haixun 01 has been assigned to find and recover them.

Searchers have until about April 8 before the batteries on MH370’s underwater beacons - the pingers -  go dead, after which locating the aircraft’s black box will be that much harder.

Zahid: Entry protocols to be improved

4pm: According to Astro Awani, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says today that new security protocols at the country's entry points, especially KLIA, are being revisited and improved if necessary.

Immigration will install APSS or advanced passenger screening systems, which “will be in place by the middle of June”.

However he did not reply when asked about airspace protocols, saying this comes under the Department of Civil Aviation(DCA) and Ministry of Transport.

On the security breach of our airspace as demonstrated by the MH370 diversion, Zahid said it is a matter for the Defence Ministry.

“When I was there as the defence minister, the Airforce is given the responsibility to intercept any foreign element, but not commercial aircraft, because the primary radar is able to identify between a jet fighter, military aircraft and commercial aircraft," he is reported saying, reminding that it is not his responsibility.

China spots more objects

3pm: Reuters reports Xinhua today saying a Chinese aircraft has spotted three suspicious objects in the new search area in the Indian Ocean.

The items are white, red and orange respectively, says Xinhua.

Inmarsat: 'Ended in ocean' theory not ours

2.40pm: British-based satellite company Inmarsat distances itself from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's conclusion that MH370 has "ended in the Indian Ocean".

Inmarsat spokesperson Jonathan Sinnatt says Inmarsat had only provided the information and it was for the Malaysian government to draw its own conclusions, reports China Daily.

"We provide our information to the Malaysians, and they combine that with all the other information which they have, which we wouldn't know about, and then they draw their conclusions from that and make their own announcements on that basis.

"We aren't a party to what the Malaysians announced, that's up to them, because they see the full picture. We just contribute one set of information," he is reported saying.

Najib on the night of March 24 delivered a grim press conference announcing MH370 had "ended in the Indian Ocean" citing analysis of Inmarsat's satellite data.

However, the announcement has fuelled anger among the Chinese families of the passengers, who refuse to accept the conclusion until the aircraft is found.

Hisham meets families for 3hrs

2.15pm: Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and his family has met with some of the MH370 victims' next of kin at The Everly Hotel, Putrajaya. The almost three-hour meeting started at about 11am.

At the press conference later, Hishammuddin tells reporters that the families - where many of foreign nationals are staying at the hotel - have asked for the government's commitment to keep searching for the aircraft and possible survivors.

"I have said that from the beginning that no matter how remote, I am always hoping against hope and I am praying. And the search and rescue is also - in any remote manner - has always been to find for survivors," he says.

The families have also asked for smoother lines of communication between them and MAS, he adds without elaboration.

At the sidelines, 60-year-old Selamat Umar (left) tells reporters that he still has high hopes that his son Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat and others aboard the aircraft are still alive and in good condition.

"I am full of confidence because if it (the aircraft) has plunged into the water, it couldn't have taken so long to find it," he says.

To a question on how he feels about the dramatic shift in the search area yesterday, he replies, "Since they can't find it there, of course they would have to change. If there are clues or objects spotted, they have to go there."

NZ spots 11 objects, awaiting retrieval

2pm: Xinhua reports New Zealand air vice-marshall Kevin Short saying today that the New Zealand Orion found a total of 11 objects yesterday.

One of the objects look like an orange buoy, Short tells a press conference in Wellington today.

"Those objects turned out to be rectangular in shape, nothing bigger than one meter, some of them down to half a metre in size."

The objects have been photographed and marked for retrieval by ships, for further verification in Perth.

He adds that New Zealand air crew have yet to spot anything that could instantly be identified as belonging to MH370.

However, fuel tanks from the wings, composite materials and plastics from an aircraft would float, he added.

"So it's not unusual to have that sort of thing on the surface," he was reported saying.

Weather to deteriorate

8.30am: Amsa says the search for today is now underway, involving eight aircraft and six ships.

The Chinese vessel Haixun 01 has already began its search at first light, while the first aircraft has departed Perth at 6.05am, it says.

More ships are expected to arrive late in the day or after dark.

These include three Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orion, a Japanese Coast Guard jet and a Japanese P3 Orion.   

Also involve are a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force Ilyushin IL-76, and one civil jet acting as a communications relay.  

However, although the weather is initially expected to be ‘reasonable’ for search efforts, Amsa now says it is expected to deteriorate later today.

Objects found in new search area

8.25am: To recap, new analyses on radar and aircraft performance data on Thursday finds MH370 had been flying faster than initially estimated, reducing the distance flown because of higher fuel consumption.

Despite the dramatic shift in the search area the next day, Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) head John Young says the previous searches were "not a waste of time".

He says this is because the earlier search was based on the best information available at the time, and it is common to move the search as the situation develops with  the surfacing of more information.

Aircraft have already spotted suspicious objects in the new area, but Amsa cautions that they cannot be linked to MH370 until a ship can locate and recover them.

"It is not known how much flotsam, such as from fishing activities, is ordinarily there. At least one distinctive fishing object has been identified," said Amsa in a statement today.

US Navy pinger locators and autonomous underwater vehicles have already been stationed in Perth to help locate MH370’s wreckage.

However, these high-tech equipment cannot begin their slow, methodical work until the objects are recovered from the ocean surface and confirmed, which would in turn help reduce the search area and pinpoint the likeliest crash site.

Interpol: Passport check not 'too cumbersome'

5.30am: According to Reuters, the international police agency Interpol on Friday rejected a Malaysian suggestion that Interpol's database for checking passport was too cumbersome.

Interpol said that although several other countries used the database millions of times each year, the Malaysian immigration department had not checked plane passengers' passports against its database at all this year prior to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on March 8.

The agency's statement followed comments made by Malaysia's Home Minister Zahid Hamidi to Parliament on Wednesday that the burdensome nature of the Interpol database slowed down immigration checks.

Zahid said Interpol's database of 40.2 million lost passports was "too large" and would overwhelm Malaysia's database management system.

"Furthermore, Interpol's information of lost (passports) may slow down the process of immigration checks at counters," Zahid was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail Online.

Interpol, based in Lyon, France, said it takes just 0.2 seconds for its database to reveal to authorities whether a passport is listed as stolen. No member country had ever complained the process was too slow, it added.

"Malaysia's decision not to consult Interpol's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database before allowing travellers to enter the country or board planes cannot be defended by falsely blaming technology or Interpol. If there is any responsibility or blame for this failure, it rests solely with Malaysia's Immigration Department," it said.

Two passengers with stolen Austrian and Italian passports were able to board the plane, which vanished over the South China Sea on March 8.

However, authorities do not believe they were responsible for whatever happened to it. 

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