Business, Finance & Economics

Here's what is known about the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared — and it's not much

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Credit: Edgar Su/Reuters

Malaysian ethnic Chinese sing songs as they hold a candlelight vigil for the passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 near Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 10, 2014.

The mystery of Flight MH370 continues. Three days after it went missing, there is still no sign of the Malaysia Airlines jet that took off from Kuala Lumpur heading for Beijing with 239 people on board.

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Hopes for a breakthrough in the search over the weekend were dashed. Now, Malaysian officials are fearing the worst.

“It is not looking good in terms of finding the aircraft,” said Tengku Sharifuddin, a spokesman for the Malaysian prime minister.

The Chinese government has urged Malaysia to “step up its efforts” in the search for answers to what happened to the Boeing 777. Most of the passengers on the plane were Chinese. Malaysian authorities have offered to fly people from China whose loved ones were on the plane to Malaysia, where they can wait for details on the investigation.

At a Beijing hotel, family members grew increasingly frustrated as they waited for news that never came.

Dozens of ships and aircraft from at least nine different countries have joined the maritime search off the coast of Malaysia. The search area was doubled in size, and now even includes waters to the west of Malaysia. There has been some speculation that the plane could have turned around before it vanished.

But speculation is about all there is to go on, so far.

There were reports of oil and debris spotted in the water in the last couple of days, but each incident turned up no evidence of wreckage from the missing jet. The fact that communications went silent so suddenly points to the possibility that the aircraft disintegrated at high altitude. There are several possible scenarios for a crash of this kind, terrorism just one of them.

Two men heading to Europe via Beijing boarded flight 370 on stolen passports, according to Interpol. Law enforcement authorities are examining footage of the men taken by airport security cameras. Malaysia's civil aviation chief said hijacking is not being ruled out.

According to the Financial Times, the two men, traveling on passports stolen from an Austrian and Italian, bought their plane tickets from a travel agency in Thailand with the help of an Iranian middleman.

Flying under a false identity is not that rare, though. And the two individuals on flight 370 might have had nothing to do with the Malaysian plane going down. But numerous intelligence agencies will now be keen to find out more about who they were and why they were hiding their true identity.

If it turns out that MH370 did go down in mid-flight without the pilots sending an emergency distress signal, it would not be the first such incident. In 2009, an Air France flight disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean en route from Brazil to France, killing all 228 people on board.

In that incident, though, the plane sent automated signals that were helpful in ultimately locating the wreckage. Yet it still took authorities almost two years to find the plane's wreckage and its flight recorder, and definitively begin answering questions about what went wrong.

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