KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — It has been 30 hours since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 dropped off the radar, vanishing completely from sight in a mysterious incident that has left even aviation experts baffled.
Despite the massive deployment of army jets and navy vessels plying the routeless seas for hours, there has been no sign of the Boeing B777-200 aircraft that left the city for Beijing at 12.41am yesterday without much fanfare.
The fate of the 239 lives onboard is still unknown but with every minute that passes, their chances of survival grow ever slimmer.
Last night, a certain disquiet settled over the nation as Malaysians retired for the day, their minds filled with one disturbing question — where is flight MH370?
On social media websites, there was an outpouring of sympathy from Malaysians towards the family members of those onboard the missing aircraft.
On microblogging site Twitter, the hashtags #MH370 and #PrayForMH370 were trending, attracting thousands of postings from concerned netizens.
“How can an airplane just disappear? Where are they? #MH370 #PrayForMH370,” @Gold_Luxury wrote.
“Going to bed with a huge hope of hearing good news abt the plane as soon as I wake up tomorrow. May Allah protect all of them #PrayForMH370,” said @niallynn.
“Can’t sleep tonight. Keep thinking of families put this heart restless. Don’t know how they would accept that big blow. #PrayForMH370 #MH370,” said @MuhsinJo.
Several Twitter users retweeted a picture of an English translation of what could resemble a message that air traffic control in Beijing could have sent to flight MH370.
“MH370, this is air traffic controller hoping of seeing you, if you can hear us please maintain current altitude and fly direct to destination. We have got you approval for direct, other airlines will try to avoid your routing. We are happy to give you priority to land. Weather enroute is good and Beijing temperature is 5 deg Celcius, a little bit cold. When landed please wear your winter coat and remember to hug your loved one on arrival. They love you so much. Good day.”
“Brought tears to my eyes,” wrote @SeanLim97 of the message.
At the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) yesterday, distraught family members of the aircraft’s 227 passengers and 12 crew members appeared to be in a state of confusion as they arrived, some from different states, only to learn that the plane was still missing.
When approached by reporters for updates, some broke down in tears, while some appeared more dazed than ever. Many refused to speak to pressmen.
They were later directed to a nearby hotel after it became clear that there was yet to be any news of MH370’s whereabouts.
News reports on the situation at the Beijing airport appeared to show the same uncertainty weighing on the minds of kin members in China.
There were a total of 153 Chinese nationals onboard MH370 including two infants. A total of 38 passengers were Malaysians. All 12 crew members, led by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a senior pilot who has worked with MAS since 1981, were also Malaysians.
The ill-fated plane reportedly lost contact with the Subang Air Traffic Control at 1.30am yesterday, just over 40 minutes after it took off at 12.41am.
The Beijing-bound plane was built in April 2002 and was delivered to MAS on May 31, 2002. It has been operational for 11 years and 10 months, according to MAS officials.
As yet, no technical failure has been identified as the reason why the flight may have plunged into the ocean somewhere off the southernmost coast of Vietnam.
A massive rescue team from several nations, including the US, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia have been deployed to scour the waters where MH370 was last heard from.
The plane was hovering some 120 nautical miles off Kota Baru when it lost contact with air traffic control in Subang.
Vietnamese air force planes have spotted two large oil slicks have been found off its country’s coast, measuring at least 15km long, which may be from the missing aircraft.
According to a report on Yahoo News last night, the air search for the missing flight was suspended at around 1.30am, 24 hours after the aircraft was discovered missing.
The mission’s sea vessels have continued their search and rescue exercise, however.