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Indonesia joins international team in search for missing Malaysian plane

13th March 2014 | 3.951 Views
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Since Saturday, March 8, when the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing mysteriously, the search involving a number of countries has continued and even been expanded up to the Malacca Strait.

The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 227 passengers, including two children, and 12 crew members. They were made up of 153 Chinese nationals, 38 Malaysians, five Indians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, four French, three Americans, two each from New Zealand, Ukraine and Canada and one Russian, one Italian, one Dutch and one Austrian.

Previously, it had been reported that 12 Indonesians were on board the ill-fated airplane, but later the number was corrected to seven. The five others were actually Indian nationals.

According to media reports, Malaysia has deployed about 18 aircraft and 27 ships, including the submarine support vessel MV Mega Bakti that is able to detect objects in water at depths of up to 1,000 meters. A large number of maritime police, air force and other personnel are also taking part in the hunt.

Other countries that have joined the search are China, Vietnam, United States, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, and India. Brunei had reportedly also offered its support.

Indonesia had engaged five navy vessels and a maritime surveillance plane to join in the search efforts.

The country joined the search efforts in response to Malaysias request on March 9, the Indonesian Navys spokesperson, Untung Suropati, said.

Earlier, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he closely followed the latest developments in the search efforts for the missing plane.

"I continue to keep up with the report from the foreign affairs minister on the fate of the seven Indonesian nationals on board the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines plane. Indonesia is ready to cooperate in the search mission," the president tweeted on his Twitter handle @SBYudhoyono on Monday, March 10.

The head of state, on behalf of the Government of Indonesia, expressed deep concern to the families of the victims, hoping that all the ASEAN countries would participate in the search for the missing plane.

Indonesias Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa had previously also expressed his sympathy over the missing plane.

"The Foreign Affairs Ministry expresses its deep sympathy to families of the passengers, especially the seven Indonesians, and hopes the aircraft and passengers will be immediately found unharmed," he stated in a press release on Saturday, March 8.

He said the ministry will continue to communicate with families of the seven Indonesians and had instructed the Indonesian embassies in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing to monitor the search for the missing plane.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto on Sunday, March 9, announced the readiness of the Indonesian government to help in the search.

"The Malaysian military chief had contacted us asking for help from the Indonesian government through the military chief, the naval chief of staff and the air force chief of staff to assist in the search efforts," he said.

In the search efforts, Indonesia had dispatched a corvette, four rapid patrol vessels and a maritime surveillance plane after Malaysia requested assistance to scour the waters around Penang Island in the Malacca Strait.

Early search efforts focused on waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, off Malaysias east coast. On Tuesday, March 12, Malaysia Airlines said the scope of the search had been expanded to the Malacca Strait off Malaysias west coast and the land between the two coasts, amid reports that the plane could have turned back.

Indonesia and Malaysia regularly hold joint naval exercises in Malacca Strait, so the search efforts can be carried out easily by the Indonesian military.

Indonesian is the sixth country to dispatch forces after China, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States to search for the missing plane.

The Indonesian military had focused on Indonesian areas in accordance with the coordinates given by the Malaysian government.

"Our task is to monitor the coordinates within our territory in accordance with Malaysias requests," Commander of the Air Squadron 5 Lt Col. Bambang Sudewo, stated on March 12, 2014.

The Malaysian authorities gave a number of geographic coordinates, including within the Malaysian and Thailand territories, where the plane might be missing, he explained.

"However, we stick to our territories. We dont want to cross to Malaysias territories as they may complain and it could endanger our flight," he added.

He said the search was particularly focused on the waters off Perak Island, northern Sumatra that shares the border with Malaysia and Thailand.

"We will remain here for one week. If there is an instruction to continue the search, we will change the airplane and the crew members," he explained.

The Indonesian Air Forces Boeing A7303 had combed the Malacca Strait since Monday, March 10, but so far it had been in vain.

"Indonesian Air Force aircraft had combed A to B spot area (at the suspected crash site of MAS MH370) back and forth in the Malacca Strait to assist Malaysia in finding the missing plane," Commander of Air Base Ranai, Lieutenant Colonel Aviator Andri Gandhy, stated in Batam on March 11.

Being carried out using electronic radar monitoring and optical pictures and videos, the search range from Aceh to the Malacca Strait covered 100 to 200 nautical miles, about two to three hours of mileage per route at a height of one thousand to 15 thousand feet above the sea level.

Since March 11, the Aceh provincial authorities have decided to join the search efforts by deploying a ship to the Malacca strait.

"We have started the search operation since Tuesday, around the Malacca strait. However, our search and rescue workers have yet to find any sign of the aircrafts whereabouts," Ibnu Haris, the head of the Aceh Search and Rescue team, said on March 12.

The Aceh provinces ship with 22 personnel on board had been deployed to support Indonesias participation in searching for the missing plane.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Navy had pledged to do the search as optimally as possible, according to commander of the Sea Security Force of the Western Fleet Command, Commodore Harjo Susmoro.

He stated that the Indonesian Military (TNI) will not set a deadline for the search operation for the aircraft, which had been missing since Saturday, March 8.

"(We will operate) as fast as we can until we find it. However, if Malaysia calls for a stop we will stop, but if it does not we will continue searching. We will help as optimally as possible," he said.