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Malaysia releases preliminary report on MH370

The Malaysian government has called for real-time tracking for commercial aircraft. The recommendation comes in its preliminary report on what’s known about the mysterious circumstances surrounding missing flight MH370.

In its five-page report about

Malaysian Airlines flight MH370

, the Malaysian government called on the International Civil Aviation Organization on Thursday to introduce better tracking technology for commercial aircraft. The plea comes amid a case that has baffled international search teams who have been hunting for any sign of the missing plane since it vanished on March 8.

"There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known," the report published on Thursday said, referring also to the disappearance of Air France Flight AF447 in 2009.

"This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner," it added.

Few new details

The information published by Kuala Lumpur added very few new details to what has already been released to the media in recent weeks. In addition to the report, the Malaysian government also made public the audio recordings of a conversation between the flight crew and air traffic control, the plane's cargo manifest, its seating plan and a map showing the plane's presumed or deduced flight plan.

The report also revealed that 2.5 tons of lithium batteries had been stowed on board. Records showed that they had met International Air Transport Assocation regulations.

According to Malaysian officials, air traffic control noted that MH370 left Kuala Lumpur's radar at 1:21 a.m. on March 8. It was not until 17 minutes later that Malaysian authorities became concerned when they received an inquiry from their Vietnamese counterparts about the plane's unknown whereabouts.

Malaysia did not launch its officials search until 5:30 a.m. after its military had exhausted normal procedures of locating the plane, a move defended by the county's defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein.

The deduced map indicates that the Boeing 777, which had been en route to Beijing, reversed course over the South China Sea, traversed the southernmost tip of Thailand and then the Malaysian Peninsula. It was last identified flying south over the northern point of Indonesia's Sumatra Island. Search teams believe it crashed into the Indian Ocean, far southwest of Australia's western coastal city, Perth.

Under-water searches continue

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced this week that

all remaining search efforts would be conducted under water

, after air searches had failed to locate any debris.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Airlines announced on Thursday that it would close its family assistance centers on May 7, advising families of the victims to return home, where they would be alerted of any updates.

The unexplained disappearance of the Boeing 777 caused anger in Beijing, in particular, because roughly two-thirds of the passengers on board were Chinese nationals.

kms/ipj (AP, Reuters)

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