BANGKOK (dpa) – Few air accidents have gripped the public imagination like Malaysia Airlines MH370, which vanished almost without trace on March 8.
Its sudden and continued disappearance – along with the 239 people on board, an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing – prompted widespread speculation. But the anguish of knowing so little left relatives and loved ones desperate for an explanation.
“It’s the not knowing where, how or why that continually haunts you,” Australian mother of three, Danica Weeks, whose husband, John, was on the plane, wrote on Perthnow.com. “Every waking minute, your mind runs scenarios of what might have happened.”
In such circumstances, it is quite common for distressed people to turn to unorthodox explanations, according to experts.
“When a lack of conclusive information leaves a factual vacuum after a headline-grabbing event, conspiracy theorists rush to fill it,” psychologist Rob Brotherton wrote in New Scientist in March.
“In the case of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, their take ranges from the relatively plausible (perhaps the plane was hijacked, or destroyed by a bomb) to nonsensical (it was abducted by aliens or made invisible using advanced technology).”
In Vietnam, the disappearance of MH370, along with the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over Ukraine weeks later, created a new superstition against the number 7, putting it on the same level as the number 4 in Vietnamese and Chinese cultures.
Web pages dedicated to conspiracy theories also sprang up, some pointing specifically to the absence of any clues as a strong indication of a thorough coverup.
If the plane had crashed into the sea, “it would have broken into tens of thousands of pieces,” at least some of which would have been spotted or washed up on a beach, according to www.eyeopening.info. Planes “don’t just disappear,” former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad wrote on his blog, “certainly not these days with all the powerful communication systems, radio and satellite tracking and filmless cameras.”
Boeing, the makers of the 777 model aircraft had patented a system to disengage control from the cockpit, and guide a plane back to a pre-determined location in a hijack or other emergency.
“Could it not be that the pilot of MH370 lost control after someone directly or remotely activated this equipment,” such as the CIA, Mahathir wrote. Despite no group claiming responsibility, some were initially quick to blame Islamic extremists.
The incident “confirms extremists turning to make trouble for China,” newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch tweeted.
“Chance for US to make common cause, befriend China.”