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'Unprecedented Mystery': Search Uncovers No Part of Jet

The search for a Malaysia Airlines jet missing with 229 aboard has turned up no debris that could be linked to the plane, investigators said Monday.

“This is an unprecedented mystery,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian investigators said Vietnamese authorities had not confirmed sighting any debris from the Boeing 777-200, which was flying to Beijing on Saturday when it disappeared from radar screens.

“Unfortunately, we have not found anything that is from the missing aircraft,” Azharuddin said.

On Sunday, Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority said a Vietnamese navy plane had spotted an object in the Gulf of Thailand that was suspected to be part of the aircraft. But searchers were unable to find the object, the head of Vietnam’s search and rescue center told The Associated Press on Monday.

Image: Malaysian Airlines missing aircraft
A picture taken by personnel of a Vietnamese search aircraft and made available by Tienphong.vn on March 9, shows what was thought to be a piece of debris of the missing Malaysian Airlines jet. TIENPHONG.VN via EPA

Samples of oil slicks seen Saturday in the same area, about 56 miles south of Tho Chu Island, were taken and would be tested to see if they came from the jet, the investigators in Malaysia said.

Azharuddin said that reports of an object that looked like part of a tail turned out to be something else.

He said a hijacking had not been ruled out: “We have not narrowed down any possibilities.”

Asked whether reports that two passengers were traveling with stolen passports indicated a security lapse, he said the Kuala Lumpur airport met international standards and had been audited by U.S. and Australian authorities in recent years.

He said no time frame had been set for the investigation.

“Air France took two years to locate the body of the downed plane,” he said, referring to the crash of Flight 447, which plunged into the mid-Atlantic in 2009 on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

— Ginny Goh, CNBC