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Search For Malaysian Jet Turns Its Focus To The Crew


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

Malaysia is reaching out to dozens of countries as it expands the search for an airliner that went missing almost nine days ago. This comes after new data indicates that the plane flew for hours after it last made contact with civilian radar. But which direction it went after that point remains a mystery.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing that despite evidence that the plane was intentionally diverted, Malaysian authorities have not said the plane was hijacked.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: At a press conference today, Malaysia's Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that based on assumptions that the plane may have either flown northwest towards Central Asia or southwest towards the southern Indian Ocean, the area of the search has been significantly enlarged.

HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN: And the nature of the search has changed. From focusing mainly on shallow seas, we are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans.

KUHN: He appealed to countries joining in the search to provide satellite and radar data and equipment to help find the plane. Hishammuddin Hussein added that police are now looking into the background of the passengers and crew.

HUSSEIN: Yesterday, officers from the Royal Malaysian Police visited the home of the pilot. They spoke to family members of the pilot and experts are examining the pilot's flight simulator.

KUHN: Pilot Zaharie Ahmed Shah is also an aviation buff, and he set up a flight simulator in his home.

In Beijing, meanwhile, there is considerable anger among passengers' families at the conduct of Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government. One man who gave only his family name, Gao, spoke at a hotel where family members are gathered to await information.

GAO: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: Many family members here share the opinion, he said, that the Malaysian government is deceiving us and hiding the real story from us.

An editorial this weekend, by the New China News Agency, said that because Malaysia failed to release information in a timely manner, many countries squandered their resources by searching for a week in the wrong area.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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