Malaysia flight search expands to millions of square miles

An Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency personnel scans the seas aboard a boat on patrol in the Malacca Strait off Aceh province located in the area of northern Sumatra island. Getty Images.

BEIJING -- The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded to 2.24 million square nautical miles, officials said Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur.

"This is an enormous search area. And it is something that Malaysia cannot possibly search on its own. I am therefore very pleased that so many countries have come forward to offer assistance and support to the search and rescue operation," said acting Malaysian transportation minister Hishamuddin Hussein at a press conference.

"To gather 25 countries to search together as a team is a tremendous challenge," added Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

In what might be the most far-ranging and multinational search and rescue operation ever, the officials said they would be searching along two corridors identified by satellites as possible locations for the Boeing 777, which vanished March 8 on its way to Beijing. China and Kazakhstan are taking the lead searching a northern corridor that extends to the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Australia is leading the search of the deep waters of the Indian ocean between its own northwest coast and Indonesia, along with extensive U.S. help.

Meanwhile, family members of the missing 227 passenger started threatening a hunger strike, complaining that Malaysia Airlines was not giving them enough information.

"I’m angry at Malaysia for not telling the truth," Wen Wanchen, whose 34-year-old son was on the plane, told reporters at Beijing’s Lido Hotel, where families are being accommodated. "From the start they were buying time, withholding facts, and now they’re distorting the truth."

China’s ambassador to Malaysia, Huang Huikang, said on Tuesday that Chinese authorities had completed an investigation and that none of the Chinese nationals aboard the flight "was involved in a terror or hijack attack," the Xinhua news agency reported.

The ambassador also said China was conducting a search within its own territory, although there are no indications that the missing plane made it to China.

Malaysia has requested that the armed forces of all the countries involved recheck their radar data from the date of the flight to see if an unidentified aircraft might have traversed their territory. India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have all responded, saying they had seen no sign of the plane.

Relatives of the missing passengers who have been staying at a hotel in northern Beijing on Tuesday also threatened to hold a hunger strike in order to force the airline to disclose more information.