KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government has asked as many as 25 countries for assistance and received "unprecedented" positive response, as the search for the missing jetliner continues to demand immense resources, officials said here.
The new search areas announced Saturday encompass a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand as well as a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
"We are now looking at large tracts of land crossing 11 countries as well as deep and remote oceans. The number of countries involved in the search and rescue operations has increased from 14 to 25, which brings new challenges of coordination and diplomacy to the effort," he said.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with 239 passengers and crew on board vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur early morning March 8. The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 a.m. March 8 and was due to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on the flight included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.
Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. March 8 when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
In the last 24 hours, the Malaysian prime minister has spoken to prime ministers of Bangladesh and India, as well as presidents of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
The Malaysian foreign minister has also briefed officials from countries in the north and southern corridors. This includes a briefing to representatives from 22 countries including nations along the new search corridors as well as other countries that may be able to help.
"Basically, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Australia have been approached. Malaysian officials are requesting assistance from these and other countries. This support includes general satellite data, radar playback, visions of ground and sea search and assets as appropriate," he added.
"We are asking countries with satellite assets including the U.S., China and France among others to provide further satellite data. We are contacting additional countries who may be able to contribute specific assets. These assets are particularly needed to cover the vast areas of the southern search corridor."
Both corridors will be treated with equal importance and Malaysia is still in discussions to decide how assets provided by friendly countries will be used.
Malaysian police had also revisited the homes of the pilot and co-pilot, retrieving the flight simulator of the pilot, which is being investigated.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said the pilot and co-pilot did not request to be allowed to fly together, dismissing speculation of a pre-planned hijack attempt.
Hussein also told reporters that no extra fuel or hazardous cargo was carried on the flight. Authorities would continue to analyse the backgrounds of the 239 passengers and crew members with the help of international intelligence agencies, but Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar refused to give any details and said only that nothing suspicious has come up.