: Authorities in Maldives have begun investigating claims by local residents on a remote island of the republic who said they saw a low-flying plane on the day Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 went missing.
According to online portal Haveeru Online on Tuesday the police have yet to reveal any information on the matter.
Witnesses told Haveeru online that they saw a white aircraft with red stripes – the colours of a Malaysia Airlines aircraft – flying towards the Southern top of the Maldives at around 6.15am on March 8, 2014.
Residents of Kuda Huvadhoo Island also claimed to hear an incredibly loud noise at the time the plane crossed their island.
“I’ve never seen a plane flying that low over this island before. We’ve seen seaplanes airplanes but I’m sure that this was not one of those,” the witness said adding that several other residents have reported to seeing the same thing.
Small planes are among the main forms of transportation in the Maldives.
Haveeru reporter, Ahmad Naif who wrote the article also revealed the portal had received information on the incident since March 9 but were sceptical over the validity of the claims.
"Later we were getting so many comments that we contacted the island and they said it was true,” Naif explained in an interview on web portal Minivan news.
A local aviation expert told Haveeru Online there is a possibility that the low-flying plane was flight MH370 because at that time there were no planes scheduled to fly over the island.
Minivan News meanwhile said the earliest flight schedule at the nearest airport to the area was at 7.20am on Saturday with all flights headed to the capital Male to the north-east.
The news portal however said there were problems with the witnesses’ claims. According to the country’s military spokesman, it was not possible for an aircraft as big as the Being 777-200 to land on an isolated airstrip in the atolls.
“If you are asking are there any landing strips outside the main commercial airports, the answer is no,” said Major Hussain Ali.
Spokesman for the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) Hassan Areef has also urged caution regarding the reported sightings in Kudahuvadhoo.
“We have no credible information about the plane in terms of radar or sightings.
“There are so many conspiracy theories. We have no credible information that the plane has come to us,” he said to Minivan News.
The news portal also said that several witnesses could not conclude with certainty that the plane they reportedly saw on March 8 was indeed a Boeing 777-200 aircraft.
The search and rescue efforts for the missing MAS plane as it enters day 12 will cover a 2.24 million nautical mile area. It will involve two corridors – a northern corridor stretching from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand and a southern corridor stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian ocean.
The two corridors were determined based on new data that showed flight MH370’s last communication with the satellite at 8.11am on March 8, 2014.
Maldives in located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres southwest of India. The republic is not among the 26 countries that have been called to assist Malaysia in search and rescue efforts for the missing aircraft.
However a Berita Harian report on Tuesday had put Maldives in the radar. Quoting a police source, the report said investigations into the flight simulator taken from MH370 pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home found five airports in the Indian Ocean recorded on the device.
Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Male was one them apart from three in India and Sri Lanka and an airport owned by the United States, Diego Garvia.
Captain Zaharie was piloting flight MH370 which had failed to land in Beijing according to schedule at 6am on March 8 after departing from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on the same day.
Investigations on the missing aircraft showed the plane have been deliberately deviated from its original path. Its communication systems were also found to have been deliberately switched off. The revelations had raised speculations that the aircraft was possibly hijacked but authorities said they are looking at all possibilities as to what could’ve happened to flight MH370.