| KUALA LUMPUR, March 22
KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 Two weeks after a
Malaysia Airlines airliner went missing with 239
people on board, officials are bracing for the "long haul" as
searches by more than two dozen countries turn up little but
frustration and fresh questions.
The international team hunting Flight MH370 in the remote
southern Indian Ocean yielded no results on Friday, and
Australia's deputy prime minister said suspected debris there
may have sunk.
Aircraft and ships have renewed the search in the Andaman
Sea between India and Thailand, going over areas that have
already been exhaustively swept to find some clue to unlock one
of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation.
Malaysian officials have been realistic about their ability
to lead the operation with a global dynamic that some have said
is beyond the country's technical capabilities and expertise.
"This continues to be a multinational effort coordinated by
Malaysia, involving dozens of countries from around the world,"
Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a
briefing on Friday.
Malaysia welcomed "all assistance to continue to follow all
credible leads", said Hishammuddin, who is also acting transport
He said searchers were facing the "long haul" but were
conscious that the clock was ticking. The plane's "black box"
voice and data recorder only transmits an electronic signal for
about 30 days before its battery dies, after which it will be
far more difficult to locate.
Investigators suspect the Boeing 777, which took off
from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing shortly after midnight on March 8,
was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled
path. They say they are focusing on hijacking or sabotage but
have not ruled out technical problems.
The search itself has strained ties between China and
Malaysia, with Beijing repeatedly leaning on the Southeast Asian
nation to step up its hunt and do a better job at looking after
the relatives of the Chinese passengers.
Hishammuddin has rejected complaints that the country has
botched search efforts or refused to share vital information
with other governments.
For families of the passengers, the process has proved to be
an emotionally wrenching battle to elicit information, their
angst fuelled by a steady stream of speculation and false leads.
In a Beijing hotel where the bulk of Chinese families have
been awaiting information, the deadlock prompted rage over
perceived Malaysian incompetence.
For a handful of Chinese families who chose to be flown to
Kuala Lumpur to be closer to the heart of search operations, the
flow of information has been no more fluid.
On Wednesday, grief erupted into anger when several family
members unfurled a protest banner in front of a throng of
journalists, demanding the truth from the Malaysian government.
The ruckus prompted police to escort the relatives, including a
distraught mother, away from the briefing room.
By Friday, the Chinese families who had been staying at a
resort south of Kuala Lumpur had to decamp to another hotel as
they were displaced by customers for the upcoming Malaysian
Formula One grand prix.
"Tonight all the government could give us was old
information. But of course we, the families, want to hear new
updates," Malaysian Hamid Ramlat, the father of a passenger,
told reporters after emerging from a briefing on Thursday night.
Some experts have argued that the reluctance to share
sensitive radar data and capabilities in a region fraught with
suspicion amid China's military rise and territorial disputes
may have hampered the search.
Two people familiar with the investigation said the search
had been slowed in some cases by delays over the paperwork
needed to allow foreign maritime surveillance aircraft into
territorial waters without a formal diplomatic request.
(Additional reporting by Ruairidh Villar, Tim Hepher, Niki
Koswanage and Siva Govindasamy; Editing by Nick Macfie)