Mystery: Malaysia Airlines passenger ‘phones ringing’

A number of Chinese families have been able to ring the mobile phones of their missing loved ones

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The mystery over the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight has deepened after the family of a passenger successfully rang his mobile phone on Monday - but nobody answered.

Infographic: Missing Malaysia flight

Infographic: Missing Malaysia flight
Infographic: Missing Malaysia flight

The sister of one of the Chinese passengers among the 239 people on board the vanished flight rang his phone live on state TV, the Mirror reported, with a video of the moment the relative made the call.

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"This morning, around 11:40 [a.m.], I called my older brother's number twice, and I got the ringing tone," said Bian Liangwei. At 2 p.m., 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." She has passed on the number to Malaysia Airlines and the Chinese police, according to the International Business Times.

According to Chinese media reports, a number of families have also been able to ring mobile phones of their missing loved ones. The calls connect, but then ring out.

The Shanghai Daily reported that a man from Beijing also called his missing brother on the plane, and reported to the airlines that the phone connected three times and rang before appearing to hang up.

The brother had reportedly made the call in the presence of journalists.

Many of the family members told Malaysia Airlines commercial director Hugh Dunleavy that the commuters' mobile phones were ringing but they were not picked up, the Strait Times reported.

According to a report, 19 families signed a statement saying that dialing their relatives' phones leads to a ring, rather than going straight to voice mail.

But others have cast doubt on the connecting calls.

"This does not mean the phone you are calling is ringing yet," wrote wireless analyst Jeff Kagan in an email to NBC News.

"The network is searching for the phone. First based on where it last was, then it expands. Then if the network can't find the phone, the call terminates."

Still, The development raises more questions about what has happened to flight MH370.

Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur, after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 ft (10,670 meters).

No distress signal was sent from the lost plane, which experts said suggested a sudden catastrophic failure or explosion, but Malaysia’s air force chief said radar tracking showed it may have turned back from its scheduled route before it disappeared.

About two-thirds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew now presumed to have died aboard the plane were Chinese. The airline said other nationalities included 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.

Suspect passports

The passenger manifest issued by the airline included the names of two Europeans - Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi - who were not on the plane. Their passports had been stolen in Thailand during the past two years.

An Interpol spokeswoman said a check of all documents used to board the plane had revealed more “suspect passports”, which were being investigated.

The two men who boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with stolen passports were reportedly Iranian and their tickets were purchased by a man known only as Mr. Ali.

A Thai travel agent has revealed that she booked the two men who traveled on stolen passports and that Mr. Ali paid for the tickets.

Infographic: World's deadliest crashes

Infographic: World's deadliest crashes
Infographic: World's deadliest crashes

Scant evidence of attack

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, according to Reuters news agency.

"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.

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