Monday, March 17, 05:30 PM MYT
+0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident – MH370 Press Briefing by Hishammuddin Hussein, Minister of Defence and Acting Minister of Transport
Before answering your questions I would like to give a brief statement, starting with an operational update.
1. Diplomatic efforts
During the last 24 hours, the Prime Minister has spoken to the Prime Minister of Australia and the Premier of China. Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent diplomatic notes to all countries involved in the search and rescue operation.
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This includes two groups: first, countries in the search corridors; and second, countries from which we are seeking assistance and expertise.
For countries in the search corridors, we are requesting radar and satellite information, as well as specific assets for the search and rescue operation. We are asking them to share their land, sea and aerial search and rescue action plans with the Rescue Co-ordination Centre here in Malaysia, so that we can co-ordinate the search effort. We have asked for regular updates, including daily reports on both search activities, and details of any information required from Malaysia.
We are not at liberty to reveal information from specific countries. As the co-ordinating authority we are gathering all information as part of the on-going search and rescue operation.
2. Search and rescue operations
Over the past 48 hours, Malaysia has been working on the diplomatic, technical and logistical requirements of the search for MH370. The number of countries involved in the search and rescue operation has increased to 26.
Malaysia continues to lead the overall co-ordination of the search effort. The southern corridor has been divided into two sections, according to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) demarcations.
These demarcations were agreed by the ICAO – of which Malaysia is a council member – before MH370 went missing. Australia and Indonesia have agreed to lead search and rescue operations in their respective regions as demarcated by the ICAO.
Today, I can confirm that search and rescue operations in the northern and southern corridors have already begun.
Countries including Malaysia, Australia, China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan have already initiated search and rescue operations.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Navy have deployed assets to the southern corridor. Two Malaysian ships have been deployed: the offshore patrol vessels KD Kelantan and KD Selangor. This deployment also includes a Super Lynx helicopter, which can operate from either ship.
Australia has already moved a P-3 Orion aircraft to region of the Cocos and Christmas Islands. Today, the Prime Minister of Australia confirmed that Australia will send an additional two P-3 Orions and a C-130 Hercules. A US P-8 Poseidon aircraft will be travelling to Perth today to help with the search.
3. Expert involvement
Malaysia has been working with international investigators and aviation authorities since day one.
Yesterday, experts from Civil Aviation Administration of China joined the investigations team.
Today, officials from the French Office of Investigations and Analysis for the Safety of Civil Aviation also joined the team. These authorities are working with Malaysia Airlines and the DCA to refine data that can help with the search.
4. Police investigation
On Saturday 8 March, the Royal Malaysia Police started investigations into all crew members on board MH370, including the pilot and co-pilot, as well as all ground staff handling the aircraft.
On Sunday 9 March, police officers visited the homes of the pilot and co-pilot. Officers also spoke to family members of the pilot and co-pilot.
Police visited the homes of the pilot and co-pilot again on Saturday 15 March. The pilot’s flight simulator was taken from his house with the assistance of his family. The simulator was re-assembled at police headquarters.
At this point, I would like to stress that Malaysia has been co-operating with the FBI, Interpol and other relevant international law enforcement authorities since day one.
5. Malaysia’s response
I would also like to address the speculation that Malaysia has held back information about MH370’s movements.
For the families, I understand that every day prolongs the anguish. I understand because Malaysia, too, is missing its sons and daughters. There were 50 Malaysians on board the plane.
Our priority has always been to find the aircraft. We would not withhold any information that could help. But we also have a responsibility not to release information until it has been verified by the international investigations team.
This responsibility is not only to the families and to the investigation, but also the search and rescue operation. It would be irresponsible to deploy substantial assets merely on the basis of unverified and uncorroborated information.
As soon as the possibility emerged that the plane had carried out an air turn back to the Straits of Malacca, we expanded our search to that area. I would like to reiterate the US investigating team’s statement about that decision: based on the information and data given by the Malaysian authorities, the US team was of the view that there were reasonable grounds for the Malaysian authorities to deploy resources to conduct search on the western side of peninsular Malaysia.
As soon as we verified and corroborated the new satellite information as to the possible last known whereabouts of the aircraft, we recalibrated our search efforts to the northern and southern corridors as announced by the Prime Minister. After my statement we will release a more detailed map of the northern and southern corridors.
6. Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines has set up operations centres in both Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, to care for the families of the crew members and passengers.
MAS has allocated each family a caregiver, who will be on 24hours duty. They have sent more than 100 staff and caregivers to Beijing.
The airline gives daily briefings to the families. They provide counselling sessions. And they contact families that have elected not to come to Malaysia between two and three times a day.
7. Concluding remarks
Over the past two days, we have been recalibrating the search for MH370. It remains a significant diplomatic, technical and logistical challenge. Malaysia is encouraged by the progress made during such a short period of time. We are grateful for the response by the heads of government that we have spoken to, all of whom have expressed a commitment of assistance.
With support from our many international partners, this new phase of the search is underway. Assets are being deployed, and search and rescue operations have begun. I wish to thank our partners from around the world for their continued support.
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