NEW DELHI, March 19 – As a multinational search for a missing Malaysian airliner intensified, a Maldivian news portal reported that Maldives islanders claimed to have seen a low-flying jet on March 8, the day the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft disappeared. Residents of the remote Maldives island of Kudahuvadhoo in the Dhaal Atoll claimed to have seen a plane flying low on the day that the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 went off radar screens, said the website Haveeru.
It said several residents of Kudahuvadhoo told the website on Tuesday that they saw the aircraft at 6.15 am on March 8. They said it was a white aircraft with red stripes across it – which is what Malaysia Airlines flights typically look like, the website reported. Eyewitnesses from Kudahuvadhoo concurred that the plane was travelling north to southeast, towards the southern tip of the Maldives – Addu, said the report. They also noted the incredibly loud noise that the flight made when it flew over the island, it added.
“I’ve never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We’ve seen seaplanes, but I’m sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly,” the report quoted an eyewitness as saying. “It’s not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too,” the eyewitness told Haveeru.
Mohamed Zaheem, the island councillor of Kudahuvadhoo, said the residents of the island had spoken about the incident. A local aviation expert told Haveeru that it is “likely” for MH370 to have flown over the Maldives. The possibility of any aircraft flying over the island at the reported time is extremely low, the expert said. The MAS aircraft disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing. Investigators say it was deliberately diverted off course.
Twenty-six countries are now helping to locate the plane after satellite and military radar data projected two huge corridors through which it might have flown. The northern corridor stretches from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan while the southern corridor stretches from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. Satellite data suggests that the last ‘ping’, the digital equivalent of a handshake, was received from the flight somewhere over the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile in Male, Maldives police have launched an investigation into reports residents of the remote Maldives island of Kuda Huvadhoo in Dhaal Atoll saw a low flying jumbo jet on the morning of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
However, police did not reveal any further details, Xinhua news agency reported. Earlier reports indicated that Maldives neighbour, Sri Lanka, had opened up its air space on request by the Malaysian government to search for the missing plane. Aircraft from Malaysia, the United States, New Zealand and Australia had flown over the island for several days but no sign of the missing jet was seen. Twenty-six countries are currently searching for the Boeing 777-200ER which had 239 passengers and crew on board.