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Print Edition> World
UPDATED: March 28, 2014 NO. 14 APRIL 3, 2014
As Long as It Takes
Joint efforts to find MH370 continue
By Chen Ran

ENDLESS LOVE: Family members of the passengers on board Malaysia Airlines MH370 take picture of a screen while a slideshow praying for their loved ones is played at Lido Hotel in Beijing on March 27 (CFP)

"Please come back soon!" Those are the opening words shown on a verified account on Sina Weibo, China's largest Twitter-like social media platform. The profile photo for the account is of candles arranged in the shape of a heart in front of a message board covered in messages and wishes. A flight landing in front of a sunrise is used as the header photo.

The user behind the account is from a Beijing-based group whose family members were on board Malaysia Airlines MH370. The Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, which carried 227 passengers including 154 Chinese nationals and 12 crew members, lost contact with air traffic controllers in the early morning of March 8 on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The incident garnered worldwide attention. New leads surfaced as the international search operation entered its second week.

The missing flight steered off course after all communication systems were disabled deliberately, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on March 15. The last signal between MH370 and a satellite came at 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time on March 8. "This new satellite information has a significant impact on the nature and scope of the search operation," he said.

Based on the data, the Malaysian authorities tried to trace the missing plane along two possible "corridors" – a northern one from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand; and a southern one stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. The search being primarily conducted in the South China Sea was suspended.

"Due to the type of the satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plane when it last made contact with the satellite," the Malaysian prime minister noted.

Twenty-six countries, the largest number in modern aviation history, have been involved in the new search area.

The Chinese search-and-rescue team adjusted its operation plan accordingly after the new findings – four vessels with three helicopters searched 120,000 square km along the northern Bay of Bengal while five vessels with three helicopters headed south, searching 180,000 square km along the Sunda Strait, connecting the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean.

According to Huang Huikang, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, China has conducted investigations into the backgrounds of the 154 Chinese nationals on board MH370. "We have found no indications of any sabotage or hijacking by these passengers," Huang noted.

Moreover, 15 space organizations under the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters carried out satellite searches for any possible leads after the China Meteorological Administration activated the charter on March 11. Since then, 21 Chinese satellites and 11 from other countries have been working around the clock on the search effort.

Although the charter has been activated over 600 times since being declared formally operational in 2000, the search for MH370 is unprecedented for them. "Past operations had fixed observation points, for example, earthquakes. But this time, there is no clear target and the search area is huge," said Wang Zhigang, researcher of the Beijing-based China Center for Resources Satellite Data and Application, in an interview with China Central Television.

On March 20, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said satellite imagery had found two objects possibly related to the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean. The location was about 2,500 km southwest of the Australian port city of Perth.

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