The Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished Friday night is still missing without a trace as the search for Flight 370 enters its sixth frustrating and baffling day. In the latest false lead, Chinese satellites discovered what appeared to be debris that could have been from a fallen airliner, but when search planes flew over the location photographed by the satellites, they found no such debris.
“There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing,” said Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, head of Malaysian civil aviation.
Also on Wednesday, Malaysian officials admitted that when the plane suddenly disappeared from radar screens early Saturday morning local time — Friday night on the U.S. east coast — they were not certain which direction it was flying.
Eight countries have sent 43 ships and 39 aircraft to take part in the search for the Malaysia Airlines plane and the net result of all of their efforts, at an untold cost in dollars, has been zero.
The area where search officials believe the plane amy have gone down covers a staggering 35,800 square miles. And as searchers continue to come up empty and new leads as to where the missing plane may or may have flown after losing radio contact with the ground come to light, the search area can only get larger.
The Chinese satellite images appeared to show three large chunks of something that could be interpreted as airline wreckage, and the location in the South China Sea was not far from the Malaysia Airlines plane’s designated flight path. But Vietnamese searchers had already scoured that area and come up with no results.
Rahman said that any reports of debris will be investigated, but he also noted, “there have been lots of reports of suspected debris.”
The Malaysia government is now coming under heavy criticism for its handling — or mishandling — of the Flight 370 crisis.
“There was a lot of confusion on the first and second days of this incident,” said one senior Malaysian official, speaking anonymously to the news agency Reuters. “I admit there is a lot of bureaucracy and we were slow.”
“The Malaysians deserve to be criticized – their handling of this has been atrocious,” said Southeast Asia expert Ernest Bower, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“The lack of communication about what is going on is catastrophic,” another anonymous official told Reuters. “We are in the fourth dimension here.”
The United States has offered the assistance of its own National Transportation Safety Board investigators, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the continuing search for the mysteriouly missing Malaysia Airlines plane.