Despite several reports of the sighting of possible debris from a missing Malaysian Boeing 777, nothing had been found as darkness approached Monday afternoon.
China, dissatisfied with Malayasian efforts, assigned 10 of its satellites to focus on the search area, relieving them of other duties, the South China Post reported.
The BBC said Malaysian officials had shared with the US “biometric” details of two passengers who boarded with stolen passports. One had been identified, but all officials would say is that he was not Malaysian.
The US Navy reported rising seas with swells of 4 to 6 feet, which could disperse any wreckage even more. A multinational fleet of warships was joined by many search aircraft, reflecting the fact that passengers from 14 nations were aboard the plane. A total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships from nine countries were participating.
The failure to find any debris from the flight MH370 with 239 people aboard has raised questions about whether the plane might have been off course because it was hijacked.
But it is not the first time authorities have had difficulty finding a missing plane.
It took three weeks for the US Air Force to find the wreckage of an A-10 whose pilot crashed above 13,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains 100 miles west of Denver on an apparent suicide mission in April 1997. It was hidden in the craggy peaks, only a few miles from a base where some of the high-altitude helicopter pilots searching for it trained.
The plane was 800 miles off course from its base in Arizona, and carried four 500-pound bombs. None was found with the plane’s wreckage.
Malaysian authorities said radar tracking indicated the plane might have been heading back to Kuala Lumpur when it disappeared early Saturday. Like many reports this was questioned by civilian radar experts.
Flightradar24, a civilian site that tracks aircraft, said: “… there are reports in media that MH370 may have turned around. FR24 have not tracked this. This could have happened if the aircraft suddenly lost altitude as FR24 coverage in that area is limited to about 30000 feet.”
At least two suspicious passengers were on board, traveling on stolen passports.
The chief Malaysian investigator, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said Monday that hijacking had not been ruled out, the BBC and others reported.
An Ethiopian Airlines jet hijacked in 1996 crashed near the Comores off the East African cost, killing 125 of the 175 on board. The hijackers refused to believe the plane did not have enough fuel to fly to Australia.
There were 227 passengers and 12 crew on board when the plane disappeared Friday on a flight from the Malaysian capital to Beijing without sending any distress signal or reporting any problems.
The pilot of another aircraft, who spoke to the MH370 at the request of Vietnamese authorities, said he heard some mumbling from the cockpit before communication ended.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamid told them surveillance footage showed two passengers traveling on stolen European passports were of Asian descent. This was later denied by Maylasian officials, who said one of the pair looked like a famous Italian footballer.
The failure to find any debris, especially since the plane may have been off course, may be because the search area is so large or the wreckage is being sought in the wrong area. Some media reported experts saying the plane may have exploded at 35,000 feet, scattering debris.
A total of 153 passengers on Malaysian flight MH370 were Chinese nationals, News.com of Australia reported. The airline also reported 38 passengers from Malaysia, 12 from Indonesia, three from France, two from New Zealand, four from the USA, two from Ukraine, two Canadians, two Russians, one Italian, one from Taiwan, one from the Netherlands and one from Austria.
Twenty staff of US chipmaker Freescale Semiconductor were passengers, iTnews reported. The employees traveled regularly between facilities in Tianjin, China and Kuala Lumpur.