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Malaysia denies report missing jet flew on after last contact

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-03-13 23:19

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities on Thursday denied news reports that a Malaysian passenger jet may have continued flying for some time after last contact, saying these reports are "inaccurate."

"The last transmission from the aircraft was at 01:07 a.m., which indicated everything was normal," said Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at a press conference. " Rolls Royce and the Boeing team are here in Kuala Lumpur, and are working with us and the investigation team since Sunday. These issues have never been raised."

The official also said nothing has been found at the site where Chinese satellites spotted three floating objects in the hunt for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

"A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency surveillance plane was dispatched this morning to investigate potential debris shown on Chinese satellite images," the minister said, "we deployed our assets, but found nothing."

According to the minister, MH370 had been fully serviced and was fit to fly according to engineering and maintenance records. " The last routine maintenance service was conducted on Feb. 23, 2014, the next service was due on June 19."

Touching on the radar signals, the official said it is suggested there was a possibility the aircraft has passed over the Strait of Malacca, adding "we have the duty to investigate any possibility."

He added the U.S. team is of the view that there were " reasonable grounds for Malaysian authorities to deploy resources to conduct search on the western side of peninsula Malaysia."

"Under the circumstances, it is appropriate to conduct the search if the evidence suggests there is a possibility of finding even a minor evidence to suggest the aircraft would be there."

However, he said the main efforts of the search mission has " always been in the South China Sea."

The minister also said Malaysia has put the search effort above its national security, referring to the fact that it has shared data from military radars with international partners such as United States and China to help with the search efforts.

He also refuted media report that the police was investigating the pilots of fight MH370 and searched the crew's homes.

Earlier in the day, Malaysia Airlines announced the flight codes of the missing jet, MH370 and MH371, will be scrapped and replaced by new ones, but its service frequency will remain unchanged.

"As a mark of respect to the passengers and crew of MH370 on March 8, the MH370 and MH371 flight codes will be retired from the Malaysia Airlines' Kuala Lumpur-Beijing-Kuala Lumpur route," the carrier said in a statement.

Instead, new numbers -- MH318 for flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and MH319 from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur -- will be used effective March 14, 2014.

Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER with 239 aboard, disappeared suddenly early Saturday on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

A dozen nations have deployed assets to help hunt for the aircraft, but no trace has been found so far.

At present, there are 43 ships and 40 aircraft searching for the plane, with 26 ships and 25 planes in the South China Sea and 17 ships and 15 aircraft in Malacca Strait, according to Hishammuddin.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed Thursday that China will not give up its efforts in searching for the missing plane, adding the Chinese government urges all parties involved in the search to enhance coordination so as to locate the missing plane as soon as possible.

The most urgent task now is to speed up the search and rescue operations, said Guo Shaochun, head of a Chinese task force, at a press conference held in the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

He urged the Malaysian side "to listen carefully to the next of kin of the Chinese passengers and take swift actions to respond to the needs of the families."

Among the 227 passengers aboard the ill-fated plane, 154 are Chinese.

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