People all over Asia wait with bated breath today for news about the Malaysia Airlines jet which disappeared without trace on Saturday last week. Earlier today, debris described as possibly from a plane was spotted in the sea off the coast of Vietnam, but it has yet to be confirmed as belonging to the missing aircraft.

The plane, which was carrying some 239 passengers, was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it suddenly disappeared. No distress calls were made and weather conditions were thought to have been good, leading the global media and internet masses to propose numerous theories regarding what might have happened, including an (as-yet entirely unsubstantiated) report that authorities in China ordered its military to shoot down any “suspicious passenger planes” coming close to Beijing on the same day the Malaysia Airlines flight vanished.

Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 00:41 local time on Saturday, and was due to arrive in Beijing at 06:30. Less than an hour after takeoff, however, air traffic controllers lost all contact with the plane and it no longer appeared on radar.

Days later, families of those on board, who were mostly from China and Malaysia, are beginning to lose hope and anxiously wait for news from local authorities.

Stolen passports

International Criminal Police Organisation Interpol has confirmed that two European passports, both of which were reported as stolen in Thailand in 2012 and 2013 respectively, were used by two of the passengers on board the missing plane. Both passengers were male and purchased tickets for the flight at the same time.

Little more is known about the identities of the men at this point, and they may as yet prove to be entirely unconnected to the plane’s disappearance, but a number of security agencies have launched investigations, and terrorist attack has not yet been ruled out.

Rumoured “urgent order” from Chinese leaders

Japan’s MSN Sankei News reported yesterday evening that a Hong Kong-based human rights group has stated that on March 8, the same day that the Malaysia Airlines plane vanished, authorities in Beijing gave an “urgent order” to shoot down any “suspicious passenger plane” flying close to the city.

The claim is indeed outlandish, and Sankei News strongly states that it is little more than rumour at this point, but cases of passenger planes being shot down by defence forces – accidentally or otherwise – are not unheard of. In 1988, an Air Iran flight was accidentally shot down by the United States Navy, and in September 1983 a Korean Airlines plane was fired upon by a Russian fighter.

There is currently no evidence to support the theory that China was in any way involved in the case of flight MH370, however, and even if such an order had been given, the Malaysian Airlines flight was still more than 10 hours away from Beijing, so we recommend taking this theory with not so much a pinch as a level spoonful of salt.

We will have more on this story as it becomes clear.

Update: It has now been confirmed that the objects spotted in the sea off the coast of Vietnam earlier today were unconnected to the missing aircraft. The hunt continues, but for now authorities remain almost entirely in the dark regarding the disappearance of flight MH370.

Source: MSN Sankei News, BBC News
Top image via Carlton Leisure