Search Continues For Malaysian Airlines Wreckage
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It has been almost two days since a Malaysian airliner with 239 people on board disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Several countries, including the U.S., are now taking part in the search.
NPR's Anthony Kuhn has been covering the story in Beijing. Thanks so much for being with us.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Of course, Rachel.
MARTIN: Anthony, search operations I understand have been going on around the clock. What are they finding?
KUHN: Well, we've got Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the U.S. and China all sending ships to the region to participate. They have not found a trace of that ship. Originally, they were looking at the location where the plane was last known to be. They didn't find anything there, so the Malaysians, for example, have ordered the search area to expanded.
Now today, something really interesting happened. The Malaysian air force chief told reporters that they're considering the possibility that the aircraft may have turned around in mid-flight and gone in another direction. What direction we do not know, but there was no distress call issued from the plane. And we're waiting to hear more on that.
MARTIN: You have spent some time with the passengers' families in Beijing. How are they handling the situation? Obviously terribly stressful not to have any information.
KUHN: Yes. I was with many of these families in a Beijing hotel. A lot of them are frustrated at the information just trickling in to them. Some of them issued a statement today, saying they're calling on authorities and the airline to give them the whole story. They don't feel like they're getting the straight truth. Many of them are now packing up and preparing to go to Malaysia where they hope they'll be closer to the plane when it's found, and closer to the source of information that's coming out.
MARTIN: Malaysian Airline officials say they have contacted the family of every passenger on board. What are they saying, if anything, those conversations?
KUHN: Well, they're emphasizing, Rachel, what they're doing to try to help these people; deploying caregivers, getting members of a Buddhist charity there to help the family members. At a press conference today, a member of the Malaysia Airlines management team named Ignatius Ong said this to us about their conversations with the passengers' relatives.
IGNATIUS ONG: As the time has continued to move on without finding the aircraft, Malaysia Airlines from outside has also informed the family members. We have taken the stand to inform them to expect the worst.
KUHN: Now, I spoke to family members at the hotel and they said they want to believe the best, but it's already been two days now, and so they have no choice but to prepare for the worst.
MARTIN: Another recent development. We do know two stolen passports were used on that flight. Anthony, what can you tell us about that?
KUHN: OK. In Brussels today, Interpol said that two of these passports used by people to board the plane were in their database of stolen passports - one Italian, one Austrian. And those people never got on the plane. Their stolen passports were used to board. And now Interpol is checking all the rest of the passports that were used to board the plane to see if any of those were stolen, as well.
MARTIN: And what does that mean? What's the implications of that line of the investigation?
KUHN: Well, people wonder, you know. How many people could have boarded this plane with stolen passports? The Malaysian authorities, Malaysia Airlines is saying they have not ruled anything out. Intelligence authorities are looking into this matter. And of course people are just wondering, you know, what could it have been? What sudden incident could have not allowed the pilots to send out a distress signal? You know, whether they had glided down, whether, you know, whatever happened they should have had time to send out a distress signal, but they didn't. And so, that's what they're looking into.
MARTIN: NPR's Anthony Kuhn, reporting in Beijing. Thanks so much, Anthony.
KUHN: You're welcome, Rachel.
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