This post is being updated throughout the day Saturday.
An international search is underway for a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that’s been missing for more than 24 hours. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had 227 passengers and 12 crew members aboard when it took off from Kuala Lumpur early Saturday on a flight bound for Beijing.
A regular inspection of the missing Boeing 777-200 found no technical problems 10 days ago, reports China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, citing a Malaysia Airlines spokesman.
“Malaysia Airlines humbly asks all Malaysians and people around the world to pray for flight MH370,” the company said in a statement released early Sunday, local time. The airline added that while the search operation on the water continues overnight, search aircraft won’t resume their patrols until daylight arrives Sunday.
After “the whereabouts of the aircraft is determined, Malaysia Airlines will fly members of the family to the location,” the company said.
The notice comes hours after military planes from Vietnam reported seeing two oil slicks off the country’s coast that could be a sign of the missing jetliner, as we reported earlier. Photographed from the sky, the two slicks were estimated as being 6-9 miles long and nearly 550 yards apart, according to a statement released by Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Administration.
But Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak warned against leaping to conclusions based on that report, noting that no wreckage has been found.
Officials say the broad search continues, even as ships are being sent to investigate the oil slick sighting. The search effort has focused on waters between Malaysia and Vietnam where contact was last made with the jet. Teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have been searching that area.
The U.S. State Department has confirmed that at least three U.S. citizens were on the flight. The plane’s passengers were reportedly citizens of 14 different countries, including 154 people from China.
But after the airline released the flight’s passenger manifest Saturday, reports emerged from Italy and Austria that two names on the list belong to people whose passports were stolen in recent years.
As can happen when news is breaking, some information that’s being reported may later turn out to have been incorrect. We’ll focus on reports from officials involved in the search and news outlets that have reporters in important locations.
As we reported earlier:
“Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that Luigi Maraldi, 37, whose name is on the manifest, is alive and well in Thailand. That’s where his passport was stolen last August, the newspaper says, citing the foreign ministry and the man’s parents.
“According to La Repubblica, officials visited Maraldi’s parents’ house to inform them of their son’s apparent death. But the parents said they’d just spoken to him on the phone – that he had called from Thailand to assure them that he was OK.
“Austria’s foreign ministry tells CNN that one of its citizens whose name is listed on the manifest reported his passport stolen two years ago.”
NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports that an Austrian foreign ministry spokesman says Christian Kozel, 30, is safe at home, despite his name appearing on the flight manifest.
“His passport was also stolen two years ago while he was travelling in Thailand,” Sylvia says. “Officials would not speculate on the coincidence of two people travelling with stolen passports on a flight that went missing off the Vietnamese coast.”
The plane had been scheduled to land in Beijing around 6:30 a.m. Saturday, local time – or 5:30 p.m. ET Friday, reflecting the 13-hour time difference between Malaysia and the East Coast of the U.S.
Malaysia Airlines has said contact was lost about two hours into the flight, which began shortly after midnight. Other data, from the online tracking site Flight Radar 24, indicates the plane may have gone missing somewhat earlier.