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Search Teams Work Around The Clock To Find Malaysian Airlines Flight


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

Search and rescue teams continue to work around-the-clock to find a Malaysian Airline flight that disappeared more than two days ago with 239 passengers and crew aboard. There had been sightings of debris, which could indicate the plane's location, but Malaysian authorities are cautioning that rescue crews have not yet found a confirmed trace of the missing flight.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn is in Beijing covering the story and joins us now. Anthony, the search effort has turned up debris in waters off Vietnam. Is there any link to the missing flight?

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: No link has been established, Arun. What Vietnamese military planes spotted yesterday was a rectangular object, which some people say looks a little bit like a plane door. Then again, this is not the first time they've sighted things in the water. They, on Saturday, saw an oil slick and other debris floating in the water, but there's been no link established with the plane. So we still have several countries' ships and planes looking in the area in the waters between Vietnam and Malaysia. And once it gets light here in East Asia, airplane searches will continue. Boats have been searching around-the-clock for some sign of the plane.

RATH: We've been hearing about these stolen passports that apparently were used to board the missing plane. How many passports are they talking about?

KUHN: Well, Interpol, the international law enforcement agency, says that two people got on that plane using passports that were stolen in Thailand - one Italian passport and one Austrian passport. Those two people whom the passports were stolen from are safe and alive and are on the ground. So we do not know who used the stolen passports to get aboard the plane. What Interpol said was those passports were listed in their database as stolen.

So the next step for them is to see how many other passports used to board that plane were stolen. They note that a lot of airlines do not check against Interpol's database, and therefore this sort of thing could be avoided in the future if they start to check.

RATH: It's been two days now. What is the situation now with friends and families who are waiting for news of these passengers?

KUHN: Well, most of them here in Beijing anyways are at three hotels. And Malaysia Airlines has deployed a lot of caregivers to assist them. And they're also mobilizing these passengers to go down to Malaysia to be closer to where the plane may be found and also to where information is coming out.

Yesterday, I spent some time with these family members in one of the Beijing hotel rooms. There's a lot of food for them and water and electricity for them to charge cell phones. There's not a lot of information, and that's the frustrating thing for them. And yesterday, they issued a statement in which they said they want the whole picture. They want the truth from authorities in the airline. And that means that some of them don't feel they're getting it. It's been more than two days now. The airlines said they need to prepare for the worst, and they are indeed doing just that.

That's NPR's Anthony Kuhn on the line from Beijing. Anthony, thanks very much.

You're welcome, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.