Flight 370: Mystery thickens

With lead after lead failing to pan out, search and rescue officials said Monday they will expand the search area for the Malaysia Airlines aircraft that vanished three days ago.

The newly expanded search area encompasses a larger portion of the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam, said Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Civil Aviation Department.

Nearly three dozen aircraft and 40 ships from 10 countries have so far failed to find any sign of the aircraft.

An oil slick that searchers had thought might be from the plane turned out to be fuel oil typically used in cargo ships, according to Rahman.

Other leads — reports that a plane door and its tail had been spotted — turned out to be untrue, he said at an earlier briefing.

“Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we have not found anything that appear to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,” Rahman said at the earlier briefing.

Authorities are sending ships to investigate a report of debris found south of Hong Kong, but it will likely be Tuesday before authorities know if there is anything to those reports, Rahman said.

No emergency signal has been detected by any search vessel or aircraft. And family members of passengers are being told to prepare for the worst.

So the mysteries surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — and the true identities of some of its passengers — remain unsolved.

“For the aircraft to go missing just like that … as far as we are concerned, we are equally puzzled as well,” Rahman said.

“We have to find the aircraft.”

So far, nothing

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday (1 p.m. Friday ET). The Boeing 777-200ER, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, went missing while flying to Beijing.

Since then, teams of searchers from Vietnam, China, Singapore, Indonesia, the United States, Thailand, Australia, the Philippines and New Zealand have been working alongside Malaysians to scour the Gulf of Thailand, part of the South China Sea that lies between several Southeast Asian countries.

The focus has now shifted to the Andaman Sea, near Thailand’s border, after radar data indicated the plane may have turned around to head back to Kuala Lumpur.

But the pilot apparently gave no signal to authorities that he was turning around.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., planes flew over the vast waters. Ships searched through the night.