|(Flight MH370) Condemnation grows over lethargic Malaysian action and possible security failings
State-run media in China lashed out at Malaysia and its state run carrier Malaysia Airlines over their handling of the missing Boeing 777, calling for a swifter response effort and tighter airport security.
(Pictured, Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told a briefing at noon today in Kuala Lumpur, that he is puzzled. He added that Prime Minister Najib Razak has said he was perplexed).
President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama meanwhile spoke by telephone today. Obama offered his sympathy and said the US was willing to work “comprehensively'' with China on the rescue effort, Beijing's foreign ministry said.
Nearly two-thirds of the 239 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were from China, AFP reports.
“The Malaysian side cannot shirk its responsibilities,'' the Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, wrote in a scathing editorial. “The initial response from Malaysia was not swift enough.
“There are loopholes in the work of Malaysia Airlines and security authorities,'' it said.
“If it is due to a deadly mechanical breakdown or pilot error, then Malaysia Airlines should take the blame. If this is a terrorist attack, then the security check at the Kuala Lumpur airport and on the flight is questionable.''
The China Daily wrote in an editorial that “terrorism cannot be ruled out,’’ with Malaysian and international authorities still at a loss to explain how at least two passengers were able to board with stolen Italian and Austrian passports.
“Who were they and why were they using false passports?'' the paper asked.
“The fact that some of the passengers on board were travelling with false passports should serve as a reminder to the whole world that security can never be too tight, at airports in particular, since terrorism, the evil of the world, is still trying to stain human civilisation with the blood of innocent lives,'' it added.
Malaysia's Home Minister Zahid Hamidi reportedly said Sunday that the two passengers using stolen passports appeared to be ethnically Asian.
“I am still puzzled how come [immigration officers] cannot think: an Italian and Austrian but with Asian facial features,'' he was quoted as saying by Malaysia's national news agency Bernama.
At a Beijing hotel, Malaysian embassy officials were processing visa applications for families wanting to take up an airline offer to travel to Kuala Lumpur to be closer to the rescue operations.
Scores of relatives made their way into the room, some in groups of five or six, clutching handkerchiefs and wiping away tears from their faces.
Others said they would not go. “There is more we can do here in China,'' one woman told AFP. “They haven't even found the plane yet.''
Some have criticized Malaysia Airlines' response and information disclosure, asking the Chinese government to devote “strong attention'' to the incident.
Beijing sent a working group to Malaysia today, Xinhua said. These include officials from the foreign, public security and transport ministries.
The aircraft's disappearance came one week after a deadly attack at a train station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, in which a group of knife-wielding assailants killed 29 people and wounded 143.