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‘We are racing for life’: Chinese foreign ministry asks for help searching for Malaysian jet

March 10, 2014 at 6:07 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the apparent air disaster that’s drawn the world’s attention for three days.

Despite extensive efforts, officials still have no idea what happened to an airliner that disappeared over Southeast Asia. The extensive air and sea search has so far failed to find any trace of the Malaysian jet that vanished with 239 people aboard. The Boeing 777 disappeared from radar screens Saturday, somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam, without any distress signal.

It was en route to Beijing; 34 aircraft and 40 ships from several countries are searching within a 50-nautical mile radius from the point where the plane disappeared. They have spotted objects and oil slicks, but those turned out not to be from the plane.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued this new plea today:

QIN GANG, Spokesman, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through interpreter): We appeal to all ships in the area for help with the search. We are sparing no effort in the search. At the moment, it is still the top priority. We are racing against time. We are racing for life.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Most of the passengers were from China or Taiwan. Three of the missing were Americans. Families have been awaiting updates at a time when officials have more questions than answers. Some flew to Kuala Lumpur today to demand assistance.

MAN (through interpreter): I want them to give us any information they have as soon as possible. That way, whether we go or not, at least we can have some certainty. Right now, our hearts are all hanging in the air.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Amid the uncertainty, police and Interpol agents in Thailand questioned the owners of this travel agency in the resort town of Pattaya. It issued one-way tickets to two men aboard the flight who used stolen European passports.

Malaysia’s civil aviation chief says investigators examined closed-circuit television footage at the Kuala Lumpur airport for clues on the men’s identities.

AZHARUDDIN ABDUL RAHMAN, Civil Aviation Chief, Malaysia: We looked at the footage of the video and the photograph. It is confirmed now that they are not Asian-looking males.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For now, authorities say, they can’t tell if the two men played any role in the jet’s disappearance.