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Timeline: The hunt for Malaysia flight MH370

AFP , Saturday 15 Mar 2014
Muslims pray for missing during Friday prayers at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur International Airport (Photo: Reuters)
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The search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 entered its eighth day on Saturday as evidence emerged that the plane's course was deliberately changed by someone on board.

Here is a timeline of the main developments since the Boeing 777 carrying 239 people vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing:



-- Malaysia Airlines says the Boeing 777 lost contact with air traffic control at around 1:30 am (1730 GMT Friday), about an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Initially, authorities had put the last contact time at 2:40 am.

-- Vietnam says the plane went missing near its airspace. It launches a search operation that expands into a huge international hunt in the South China Sea, involving dozens of ships and aircraft from countries including the US and Japan.

-- Tearful relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers criticise Malaysia Airlines over a lack of information.

-- Vietnamese planes spot two large oil slicks near the plane's last known location, but it proves a false alarm.

-- It also emerges that two passengers were travelling on stolen EU passports, fuelling speculation of a terrorist attack.



-- Malaysia says it is probing a possible terror link to the jet's disappearance. The US sends FBI agents to assist in the investigation.

-- Malaysia raises the first of several suggestions that the plane may have veered radically off-course -- with the air force chief saying it may have turned back towards Kuala Lumpur for no apparent reason.

-- A Vietnamese plane spots possible debris off southwest Vietnam -- but this too yields no sign of the airliner.



-- Authorities double the search radius to 100 nautical miles (equivalent to 185 kilometres) around the point where MH370 disappeared from radar.

-- China lashes out at Malaysia, saying it needs to speed up the investigation.

-- Malaysia sends ships to investigate a sighting of a possible life raft, but a Vietnamese vessel that gets there first finds only flotsam.

-- Chemical analysis by Malaysia disproves any link between oil slicks found at sea and the missing plane.



-- The search area now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula itself, the waters off its west coast, and an area to the north of Indonesia's Sumatra island -- all far removed from the flight's scheduled route.

-- Authorities identify the two men with stolen passports as young Iranians who are believed to be illegal immigrants -- not terrorists.



-- Malaysia expands the search zone to include the Malacca Strait off the country's west coast and the Andaman Sea north of Indonesia, hundreds of kilometres away.

-- Malaysia's air force chief says an unidentified object was detected on military radar north of the Malacca Strait early Saturday -- less than an hour after the plane lost contact -- but says it is still being investigated.

-- At a heated news conference, Malaysian officials deny that the search is in disarray after China says conflicting information about its course is "pretty chaotic".

-- It emerges that US regulators warned months ago of a problem with "cracking and corrosion" of the fuselage skin under the satellite antenna on Boeing 777s that could lead to a mid-air break-up -- but the manufacturer later confirms that the warning did not apply to the missing plane, which had a different kind of antenna.



-- Malaysia dismisses a report in the Wall Street Journal which said US investigators suspect the plane flew on for four hours after its last known contact, based on data sent from its engines.

-- Authorities in Kuala Lumpur also say that Chinese satellite images of suspected debris in the South China Sea are yet another false lead.

-- India steps up its search, sending three ships and three aircraft to the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands.



-- The hunt spreads west to the Indian Ocean after the White House cites unspecified "new information" that the jet may have flown on after losing contact.

-- Malaysia declines to comment on US media reports that cite US officials as saying the plane's communication system -- not the engines -- continued to "ping" a satellite for hours after it disappeared, suggesting it may have travelled a huge distance.



-- A Malaysian senior military official tells AFP the missing jet was turned towards the Indian Ocean by a "skilled, competent" pilot.

-- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announces the plane was flown for hours in a manner "consistent with deliberate action" after dropping off primary radar.

-- At a nationally televised press conference, Najib says Malaysia is still investigating "all possibilities" as to what caused the airliner to deviate from its original flight path.

-- Authorities in Kuala Lumpur call off the hunt in the South China Sea, as a US destroyer and surveillance plane join expanded search operations in the Indian Ocean. 

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