Search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane widens after Chinese debris theory debunked

Missing Vietnam China

Beachgoers walk past a sand sculpture made by Indian sand artist Sudersan Pattnaik with a message of prayers for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities expanded their search for the missing jetliner westward toward India on Thursday, saying it may have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground.

That scenario would make finding the Boeing 777 a vastly more difficult task, and raises the possibility that searchers have been looking in the wrong place for the plane and its 239 passengers and crew since it disappeared early Saturday en route to Beijing.

In the latest in a series of false leads in the hunt, search planes were sent Thursday to search an area off the southern tip of Vietnam where Chinese satellite images published on a Chinese government website reportedly showed three suspected floating objects.

They saw only ocean.

“There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing,” said acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

Compounding the frustration, he later said the Chinese Embassy had notified the government that the images were released by mistake and did not show any debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The plane left Kuala Lumpur and was flying northeast across the Gulf of Thailand and into the South China Sea when it dropped off civilian radar without any indication it was having any technical problems.

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