The ‘unprecedented mystery’ behind the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 deepened on Monday when relatives claimed they were able to call the cellphones of their missing loved ones.

According to the Washington Post, family of some of the 239 people on board the vanished Boeing 777 said that they were getting ring tones and could see them active online through a Chinese social networking service called QQ.

One man said that the QQ account of his brother-in-law showed him as online, but frustratingly for those waiting desperately for any news, messages sent have gone unanswered and the calls have not been picked up.

This new eerie development comes as the Malaysian authorities said they had identified one of the men on two stolen European passports who were on the flight – and that he was not considered likely to be a terrorist

He was a 19-year-old Iranian asylum seeker called Pouiria Nur Mohammad Mehrdad who was trying to meet his mother in Germany.

 

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The two men who travelled on the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on stolen passports. The younger man (left) was identified as Pouiria Nur Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, said by police in Malaysia to be an Iranian asylum seeker on his way to Germany to meet his mother. The older man (right) remains unknown.

The two men who travelled on the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on stolen passports. The younger man (left) was identified as Pouiria Nur Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, said by police in Malaysia to be an Iranian asylum seeker on his way to Germany to meet his mother. The older man (right) remains unknown.

Separately, the search for any trace of the missing airliner has now shifted to the Straits of Malacca, at least 100 miles away from where it was last recorded by electronic monitoring devices.

The dramatic shift raises the possibility that it flew undetected, crossing mainland Malaysia, before ditching into the sea.

However the phantom phone calls and online presence set off a whole new level of hysteria for relatives who have spent the past three-days cooped-up in a Beijing hotel waiting for some concrete information on the missing plane.

Repeatedly telling Malaysian Airlines officials about the QQ accounts and ringing telephone calls, they hoped that modern technology could simply triangulate the GPS signal of the phones and locate their relatives.

However, according to Singapore’s Strait Times, a Malaysia Airlines official, Hugh Dunleavy has confirmed to families that his company had tried to call the cellphones of crew members and they too had also rang out.

He is reported to have told relatives that those phone numbers have been turned over to Chinese authorities.

One man who had asked police to come to his house and see the active QQ account on his computer was devastated to see that by Monday afternoon it had switched to inactive.

According to China.org.cn, 19 families of those missing have signed a joint statement confirming that their calls connected to their loved ones but that they rang out.

The relatives have asked for a full investigation and some complained that Malaysian Airlines is not telling the whole truth.

The International Business Times reported that the sister of one of the Chinese passengers also rang his phone on live television.

‘This morning, around 11:40, I called my older brother’s number twice, and I got the ringing tone,’ said Bian Liangwei, sister of one of the passengers according to IBT.

At 2pm, Bian called again and heard it ringing once more.

‘If I could get through, the police could locate the position, and there’s a chance he could still be alive.’

However, at a press conference in Beijing, Malaysian Airlines spokesman Ignatius Ong said one of the numbers that had been passed on to the airline’s head office in Kuala Lumpur failed to get through.

‘I myself have called the number five times while the airline’s command center also called the number. We got no answering tone,’ said Ong.

Indeed, authorities Authorities hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded their search on land and sea Tuesday, reflecting the difficulties in locating traces of the plane more than three days after it vanished.

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement the western coast of the country, near the Straits of Malacca, was ‘now the focus’ of the hunt. That is on the other side of peninsular Malaysia from where flight 370 was reported missing.

WHY ARE THE PASSENGERS’ PHONES STILL RINGING?

After three days, wouldn’t the phone batteries be dead by now? 

Not necessarily. Smartphones are renowned for their poor battery life and will typically last up to around 24 hours. But the batteries of older phones can last considerably longer. 

For example, the Nokia 100 boasts a standby battery life of a staggering 35 days. Smartphone batteries can also last longer if the handset isn’t being used, and especially if the phone is in Flight Mode. 

However, if the phone is in Flight Mode, it switches off all wireless activity meaning calls wouldn’t be able to connect, effectively ruling out this theory.  

If the phone batteries are dead, wouldn’t the call go straight to voicemail?

In a word, yes. However, the process of sending the call to voicemail can differ depending on the service provider. 

For example, the majority of phones will go straight to voicemail, or callers will get an out of service message if voicemail hasn’t been set up. 

This will occur even if the phone is underwater, or not near a cell signal. 

However, some service providers will ring once or twice before the phone goes to voicemail, or cut off. This may explain the reports that claimed phones rang before seeming to hang up.

Some reports claim the phones are just ringing and ringing though. How is this possible?

Telecoms expert Alan Spencer told MailOnline that if the phones are really ringing, they can categorically not be under the sea. 

He added that the phones will only be ringing if they are ‘switched on, not in water, the battery is charged, and [they are] near a mobile cell site.’

This means that if the phones are genuinely ringing, the plane needs to have landed on land – not in the sea – and be in a location where there is cell service, rather than landing in the middle of a jungle, for example.

Why can’t network operators locate the phones?

A number of family members have asked the network operators why they can’t use the phone’s signal to locate the missing people. 

Professor William Webb, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, told MailOnline: ‘The phones definitely won’t be working. They’ll be underwater, out of coverage and by this time out of battery. 

‘So there’s absolutely no way they could be used for triangulation. 

‘As to why they are ‘ringing’ it’ll be the same as if they were out of coverage – in some cases it may ring before going to voicemail.’

What about the T3212 timer I’ve read about? 

The T3212 is a timer that causes a phone to periodically send a message to the network saying where it is. 

But Professor Webb said this only works when the phone is turned on and it is in coverage. It won’t work when the battery is dead.

What about reports that passengers are appearing online, on the QQ social network?

When people sign into social networks including QQ, as well as Facebook, they appear online. 

This is the case whether they’ve signed in on a phone, tablet, PC, and laptop.

if missing passengers are shown as online, they may not be using the service on their phone. Instead they may still be logged in on another device. 

If this other device shuts down or goes into standby, however, or there is a long period of inactivity, the social network will log them out, which may explain why some accounts went from online to offline over a period of three days.

Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the statement didn’t imply authorities believed the plane was off the western coast. ‘The search is on both sides,’ he said.

The Boeing 777 had 239 people on board when it vanished off radar screens early Saturday morning en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, triggering a massive international search effort.

Authorities began their hunt at the point the plane was last known to be, a spot in the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam. With no debris found, they have systematically expanded their search to include areas where the plane could have in theory ended up given the amount of fuel it had on board.

They have also said that the plane might have tried to turn back to Kuala Lumpur. On Sunday, Malaysia’s air force chief said there were indications on military radar that the jet may have done a U-turn.

Vietnamese planes and ships are a major component of the international search and rescue effort.

 

Search: A U.S. Navy SH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off from the destroyer USS Pinckney in the Gulf of Thailand, to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on Monday

Search: A U.S. Navy SH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off from the destroyer USS Pinckney in the Gulf of Thailand, to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on Monday

Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People’s Army, said authorities on land had also been ordered to search for the plane, which could have crashed into mountains or uninhabited jungle.

He said that military units near the border with Laos and Cambodia had been instructed to search their regions also.

‘So far we have found no signs (of the plane) … so we must widen our search on land,’ he said.

Experts say possible causes of the apparent crash include an explosion, catastrophic engine failure, extreme turbulence, pilot error or even suicide.

This deepening of the already baffling mystery into the disappearance of flight MH370 comes as it was claimed that the two passengers traveling on stolen passports on the plane were Iranian nationals.

A friend of one of the two men told BBC Persia that he played host to the pair in Kuala Lumpur after their arrival from Tehran before they took off on the fateful journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
This photo provided by Laurent Errera taken Dec. 26, 2011, shows the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared from air traffic control screens Saturday, taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France

This photo provided by Laurent Errera taken Dec. 26, 2011, shows the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared from air traffic control screens Saturday, taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France

 

The source told the BBC service that the pair had bought the fake passports because they wanted to go and live in Europe.

The two men were using the passports of Christian Kozel – a 30-year-old Austrian and Luigi Maraldi, a 37-year-old Italian.

The friend, who knew one of the men from school said that both purchased the illegal and fake passports in Malaysia and one-way tickets to Amsterdam.

BBC Persia’s UN correspondent Bahman Kalbasi told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that the two men were not sinister and were only ‘looking for a place to settle.’

Investigators in Malaysia are voicing skepticism that the airliner that disappeared early Saturday with 239 people on board was the target of an attack, U.S. and European government sources close to the probe said.

How the search is being stepped up

 
How the search is widening - but has still to find a thing: Strait of Malacca is now main focus of air and sea search but China is deploying ships, planes and helicopters to the South China Sea to try to find any trace of the Boeing 777. Its authorities say more needs to be done to find what happened to the plane.

How the search is widening – but has still to find a thing: Strait of Malacca is now main focus of air and sea search but China is deploying ships, planes and helicopters to the South China Sea to try to find any trace of the Boeing 777. Its authorities say more needs to be done to find what happened to the plane.

 

The fate of the Malaysian airliner that vanished about an hour into a flight to Beijing remained a mystery, as a massive air and sea search, now in its fourth day, failed to turn up any trace of the Boeing 777 plane.

Neither Malaysia’s Special Branch, the agency leading the investigation locally, nor spy agencies in the United States and Europe have ruled out the possibility that militants may have been involved in downing Malaysia Airlines Flight.

But Malaysian authorities have indicated that the evidence so far does not strongly back an attack as a cause for the aircraft’s disappearance, and that mechanical or pilot problems could have led to the apparent crash, the U.S. sources said.

‘There is no evidence to suggest an act of terror,’ said a European security source, who added that there was also ‘no explanation what’s happened to it or where it is.’

Meanwhile, dozens of ships and aircraft from 10 countries were still scouring the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam as questions mounted over possible security lapses that could have led to a downing of the Boeing 777-200ER after it climbed to an altitude of 35,000 feet.

Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had used false identity documents.

Even so, one U.S. source said Malaysian authorities were leaning away from the theory that the plane was attacked.

Their view was mostly based on electronic evidence that indicates the flight may have turned back toward the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur before disappearing.

Even that information has not been clearly confirmed, and investigators and intelligence sources say the fate of the Flight MH370 is still shrouded in mystery.

One reason was that the aircraft had failed to make automatic contact with a flight data-monitoring system after vanishing from radar screens, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Such contact could have helped investigators determine what happened.

Also raising doubts about the possibility of an attack, the United States extensively reviewed imagery taken by spy satellites for evidence of a mid-air explosion, but saw none, a US government source said. The source described U.S. satellite coverage of the region as thorough.

With no success so far, authorities were planning to widen the search from Tuesday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, told reporters on Monday.

‘Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,’ he said.

‘As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft. We have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible.’

Azharuddin said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories.

 
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