Texas-based semiconductor firm Freescale Semiconductor has confirmed that 20 employees, 12 of them Malaysian nationals, are among the 239 passengers and crew on the vanished Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which lost contact with Subang Air Traffic Control at 2.40am local time (8 March 2014).
The Boeing 777-200ER aircraft left Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) en route to Beijing at 12.41 am on Saturday, 8 March 2014 and was expected to land at 6.30 am local time on the same day.
Communication with the flight was suddenly lost about 250 kilometres off a tiny Vietnamese island with no distress signals, according Malaysia Airlines' chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya during his first statement to media at 7.24 am on the same day. "We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370 which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am earlier this morning bound for Beijing."
Freescale Semiconductor's Malaysian branch is not able to reveal details of their staff members on board MH370, according to local news reports. However, Freescale's president and chief executive officer Gregg Lowe, in a statement, confirmed that "Twelve are from Malaysia and eight are from China."
"At present, we are solely focused on our employees and their families," said Lowe. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragic event."
Freescale Semiconductor's vice president, global communications and investor relations, Mitch Haws told media that: "The 20 employees were people with a lot of experience and technical background. It's definitely a loss for the company."
The sole adult American, Philip Wood, 51, is an IBM technical storage executive who started working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, just three months ago, according to his LinkedIn profile.
According to the passenger manifest released earlier by Malaysia Airlines, the flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew - comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants), and 12 crew members. The passengers were of 14 different nationalities including 153 Chinese nationals, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French nationals, three Americans (including two toddlers), and three French nationals.
At the time of writing, no signs of the aircraft have been found though Malaysia's Defence and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein said in a morning media conference at KLIA on 9 March 2014 that international search and rescue units are investigating two oil slicks - one about 9 miles long, and the other about 6 miles long,
According to the New York Times, "the names of two passengers listed on the flight's manifest, passengers 63 and 101, match the names of two passports that were stolen in Asia a few years ago. The passports belonged to two men - one Austrian and one Italian - who authorities have confirmed were not on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and are in fact alive."
In a later media conference from KLIA (at 11am local time, Sunday 9 March 2014), Malaysia's Hishamuddin said Malaysian authorities have contacted counterterrorism organisations including the FBI about passport issues.
Hishamuddin added that no other signs have been spotted and that they are looking at all the possibilities. He did not confirm the number of passports under suspicion. "The whole manifest is being investigated. The main concern for the families is for us to first find the aircraft."
Malaysia Airlines's chief executive Ahmad Jauhari earlier said that the airline is doing its utmost to provide support to the affected family members, this includes immediate financial aid. The airline has deployed a team of 94 caregivers consisting of well-trained staff and also Tzu Chi Foundation members to provide emotional support to the families. The airline also be deployed a senior management team to support family members of passengers in Beijing.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines will set up a command centre - response control centre [RCC] - at Kota Bharu, Malaysia or Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam as soon as the location of the aircraft is established and the airline will make the necessary arrangements to support the needs of the families of passengers and crew of the flight.
Updates: search and rescue
[07.00pm local time, Sunday 9 March 2014] Minister Hishamuddin said that according to a military radar, there may have been a possibility that the missing flight MH370 made an "air turn back."
They are looking into all possible reasons for this around turn including the possibility of terrorism, he said. "Malaysia is working with foreign intelligence agencies including the FBI and counter-terrorism units on this."
At least two passengers - one Italian, the other Austrian had boarded the flight with stolen passports, Hishamuddin confirmed. The flight tickets for these two passengers were reportedly purchased consecutively using Thai currency. He also said that so far two other names in the manifest of flight MH370 are also under investigation.
According to CNN, Italy and Austria have said that none of their citizens were on board the plane. And officials say the Italian and Austrian, whose names were on the passenger manifest, both had their passports stolen in Thailand in recent years.
[08.46am Monday 10 March 2014] The international search and rescue fleet of 40 ships and 34 aircraft from eight countries - including the US, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia - is widening its search zone to include the Straits of Malacca. At the time of writing, there has been no official confirmations of any signs of the missing flight MH370.
[11.49am 10 March 2014] Local media reports that the Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has called for an internal proble on KLIA immigration officers to uncover why the Italian and Austrian passengers with stolen passports were able to board flight MH370.
Earlier, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency [MMEA] has sent samples of the oil slick in the South China sea (about 100 nautical miles from the Tok Bali Beach, Kelantan) to be analysed by the Chemistry Department in Petaling Jaya. The results are expected Monday afternoon.
In addition, Malaysia Airlines is offering "financial assistance over and above their basic needs" to all families of passengers on the flight.
Civil Aviation Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman modified
[12.00pm, Monday, 10 March 2014] During the official media conference, Civil Aviation Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (pic), who is heading the search and rescue [SAR] operations, confirmed that the international search and rescue team has widened its search to the Strait of Malacca.
"The air search is being conducted from 7am to 7pm while the ships continue around the clock," Azharuddin said. "So far, there has been no sign of anything that can be connected to the missing aircraft, he said. There have been various reports in media - citing Vietnamese authorites: such as the inner part of the door of the aircraft. But that report is not verified officially by the Vietnamese authorities as of last night."
"The MMEA has sent samples of the oil slick to the labs," he said. "We will reveal the report when received. No reported signs so far are not verified. There are many theories in the media including expert opinions from around the world about what may have happened. We are equally puzzled. Our prime minister used the word 'perplexing.'"
"We need hard evidence, we need parts of the aircraft to determine what has happened," he added. "We have not secured any part of the aircraft to date. We are intensifying our search to include the possibility of an 'air turn back.' We are not discounting any possibilities. There is a lot of work that has to be done in this unprecedented mystery. Malaysia Airlines and experts around the world are helping us."
The priority is to find the aircraft," said Azharuddin. "The incident of the two passengers flying with stolen passports is being investigated including all footage. There is talk of a possible highjacking. This is not discounted. We are looking at every possibility and at all angles," he said. "We have to get concrete evidence, we have to find the aircraft."
[04.00pm Monday 10 March 2014] Malaysia's Defence and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein confirmed no trace of trace of the aircraft has yet been found. He said the Chinese delegation has arrived and have made positive comments about the conduct of the search and rescue operation so far.
The most recent reports of a sighting of yellow object in the waters by Vietnamese forces has not been confirmed. The stolen passports are under investigation with various agencies.
In response to a question from the media, Hussein dismissed an open letter from a group, calling itself the 'China Martyr Brigade', that claimed responsibility. "I have seen the open letter. I don't think there is any sound ground that it is true."
He said we are investigating all allegations but the focus remains on locating the aircraft and that no possibilities are being ruled out.
[08.00pm local, Monday, 10 March 2014] The official media conference included the following points by Civil Aviation Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman who said:
- Oil slick sample: Azharuddin has confirmed that oil sample from the oil slicks, which was tested by MMEA's Petaling Jaya laboratory this afternoon, is not from an aircraft and is not linked to the missing flight MH370.
- Debris: Spotted by Vietnamese search and rescue is being checked.
- Stolen passports: One of the two passengers who had boarded the missing MH370 aircraft using stolen passports have been identified, according to Malaysia's Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, speaking at Kajang police headquarters earlier to media. "We cannot link the missing aircraft with terrorism activities yet but let us investigate all possibilities."
Commenting on this, Azharuddin said all security protocols had been followed. The two passengers with stolen passports are "not Asian looking men."
From tomorrow morning and for the following days, the search area is to be be expanded beyond 100km and will include land on the west coast of Malaysia, he said. "It is very important that we find the aircraft first."
[The next official media conference is scheduled for Tuesday, 11 March 2014, 10.00 am local time.]