MH370 search director disagrees with pilot ditch theory

Canadian air crash investigator Larry Vance’s new book MH370: Mystery Solved claims the plane was deliberately sunk in the unexplored depths of the Indian Ocean. Above, a waiter walks past a mural of Flight MH370 in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur in February 2016. (AP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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MH370 search director disagrees with pilot ditch theory

CANBERRA, Australia: The director of a seabed hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Tuesday disagreed with a new book’s conclusion that the pilot likely flew the plane beyond the search area to deliberately sink it in unexplored depths of the Indian Ocean.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau believes the airliner mostly likely ran out of fuel and crashed after flying far off course en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8, 2014. It believes all 239 passengers and crew on board were likely long dead inside a depressurized cabin and cockpit.
Search director Peter Foley, who coordinated the search on Malaysia’s behalf, was quizzed by a Senate committee on theories in Canadian air crash investigator Larry Vance’s new book “MH370: Mystery Solved.”
The book argues that two wing flaps found on islands off Africa in 2015 and 2016 point to pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah performing a controlled ditching outside the 120,000 square kilometers (46,000 square miles) that were scoured by sonar in an A$198 million search that ended in January last year. It says Shah’s aim was to keep the plane largely intact so it would disappear as completely as possible in the remote southern ocean.
Foley, who said he has read the book, pointed to evidence that the plane was not under anyone’s control when it hit the water.
He said analysis of the satellite transmissions of the flight’s final moments showed the jet was in a fast and accelerating descent at the end. Debris from within the plane’s interior found washed up on the west coast of the Indian Ocean suggested significant energy on impact, Foley said.
“If it was being controlled at the end, it wasn’t very successfully being controlled,” Foley said. “The flaps weren’t deployed,” he added.
The book argues that the two recovered flaps show evidence that they had been deployed as the pilot slowed the plane for a gentle landing on water.
Foley said an analysis at the bureau’s headquarters in Canberra of the second flap found on the island of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania, in June 2016 determined it was “probably not deployed.”
But French authorities prevented an Australian analyst from “doing anything meaningful in terms of analysis” of the first flap found. That flap, known as a flaperon, was found on the French island of Reunion in July 2015. French authorities are holding the flaperon as evidence for a potential criminal prosecution.
Foley said his bureau could not conclude that the flaperon had lost its trailing edge because it was deployed when the plane hit the water.
While the bureau has not said who had initially flown the plane off course, Foley said “it’s absolutely evident” that someone had, ruling out some mechanical or electrical malfunction.
Texas-based technology company Ocean Infinity renewed the search this year on the basis that Malaysia would pay it up $70 million if it could find the wreckage or the plane’s black boxes.
Foley said he still hopes the search will succeed within weeks.
“If they’re not, of course, that would be a great sadness for all of us,” he said.


UN: Record 68.5 million people displaced worldwide

Updated 6 min 22 sec ago
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UN: Record 68.5 million people displaced worldwide

  • The current figure is equivalent to the entire population of Thailand
  • Most people flee within their own country, and are defined as internally displaced people

GENEVA: A record 68.5 million people have been forced flee their homes due to war, violence and persecution, notably in places like Myanmar and Syria, the UN said on Tuesday.
By the end of 2017, the number was nearly three million higher than the previous year and showed a 50-percent increase from the 42.7 million uprooted from their homes a decade ago, according to a report by the UN refugee agency.
The current figure is equivalent to the entire population of Thailand, and the number of people forcibly displaced equates to one in every 110 persons worldwide, it said.
“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
But around 70 percent of that number are people from just 10 countries, he told reporters in Geneva ahead of the report’s launch.
“If there were solutions to conflicts in those 10 countries, or in some of them at least, that huge figure, instead of rising every year, could start going down,” he said, calling for more political will to halt the crises driving so many from their homes.
The report showed that 16.2 million people were freshly displaced last year, and included those forced to flee for the first time as well as those who had been previously displaced.
This equates to some 44,500 people being pushed out of their homes every day — or one person every two seconds, UNHCR said.
Most people flee within their own country, and are defined as internally displaced people, or IDPs.
By the end of 2017, there were some 40 million IDPs worldwide, down slightly from previous years, with Colombia, Syria and Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for the greatest numbers.
Another 25.4 million people — more than half of them children — were registered as refugees last year.
That is nearly three million more than in 2016, and “the highest known total to date,” it said.
Syria’s seven-year conflict alone had, by the end of last year, pushed more than 6.3 million people out of the country, accounting for nearly one-third of the global refugee population.
Another 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced.
The second largest refugee-producing country in 2017 was Afghanistan, whose refugee population grew by five percent during the year to 2.6 million people.
The increase was due mainly to births and more Afghans being granted asylum in Germany, UNHCR said.
South Sudan meanwhile saw the largest increase last year, with the number of refugees fleeing the world’s youngest nation soaring from 1.4 million at the beginning of the year to 2.4 million at the end.
Grandi said South Sudan was experiencing “a very bad emergency” which had apparently escaped the notice of both the government and the opposition who did not appear to be “taking seriously the desperate situation of their own people.”
Refugees from Myanmar more than doubled last year to 1.2 million, as a brutal army crackdown forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to pour across the border into Bangladesh.
Tuesday’s report also highlighted large-scale displacements in Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and DR Congo among others.
And as Israel marks 70 years of independence, there are some 5.4 million Palestinians still living as refugees, it said.
Despite the focus on migrant numbers arriving in Europe and the United States, a full 85 percent of refugees are living in low- and middle-income countries like Lebanon, Pakistan and Uganda, Grandi said.
Turkey was hosting by far the largest number of refugees, with 3.5 million registered there by the end of 2017, most of them Syrians.