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Frustrations mount in search for Malaysian airliner

Michael Pearson

CNN

(CNN) -- The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 entered its 11th day Monday, saddled with the growing weight of disparate and sometimes conflicting theories as to what might have happened and where the plane might be.

Search crews from 26 nations scoured vast swaths of ocean and land for any trace of the airliner, which vanished March 8 on a flight between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Beijing.

They've turned up nothing.

Meanwhile, families struggle with the unknown.

"Surely, they must find the plane. That's all I hope for," said Gurusamy Subramaniam, whose son, Puspanathan, is among the missing. "The whole world is out looking for it."

And suggestions about what might have happened to the Boeing 777-200ER continue to multiply, drawing pleas from Malaysian officials to put an end to the theorizing.

"This is why we press on everybody not to speculate," said Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's civil aviation chief. "Because when we have to look into speculative reports, it will distract us from our immediate concern, which is to find the aircraft."

Here are the latest developments in the search and investigation:

Flight evaded radar?

On Monday, the Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times reported that the plane may have flown low to the ground -- 5,000 feet or less -- and used mountainous terrain as cover to evade radar detection. The newspaper cited unnamed sources for its reporting, which CNN could not immediately confirm.

However, Malaysian officials said Monday that they were not aware of the report.

"It does not come from us," said Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.

Analysts interviewed by CNN said that it would be extremely difficult to fly such a large aircraft so close to the ground over a long period of time and that it's not even clear that doing so would keep the plane off radar scopes.

"Five thousand isn't really low enough to evade the radar, and that's kind of where general aviation flies all the time anyway, and we're visible to radar," said former FAA official Mary Schiavo.

Timeline clarification

Yahya said Monday that it wasn't clear whether the final words from the cockpit came before or after the plane's data-reporting system was shut down. Earlier, Malaysian authorities had said the message "All right, good night" came after the system had been disabled.

The voice message came at 1:19 a.m. Saturday, Yahya said. The data system sent its last transmission at 1:07 a.m. and was shut down sometime between then and 1:37 a.m., Yahya said.

Indian radar

A senior Indian military official told CNN on Monday that military radar near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands isn't as closely watched as other radar systems. That leaves open the possibility that Indian radar systems may not have picked up the airplane at the time of its last known Malaysian radar contact, near the tiny island of Palau Perak in the Straits of Malacca.

Earlier speculation had centered on the idea the plane may have flown over, or perhaps even landed in, the islands, but no trace of it has been found in the region despite intensive searches by Indian military officials.

Chinese response

China said Monday that it had deployed 10 ships, 21 satellites and multiple aircraft to aid in the search. Premier Li Keqiang spoke with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to ask for more information to help speed the search along, according to a statement posted on the Chinese government website.

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