KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities defended their handling of the hunt for the missing Boeing 777 on Wednesday even as they acknowledging they were unsure which direction the plane was headed when it disappeared, highlighting the task facing an international search mission now in its fifth day.
The mystery over the plane's whereabouts has been confounded by confusing and occasionally conflicting statements by Malaysian officials, adding to the anguish of relatives of the 239 people on board the flight, two thirds of them Chinese.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described the multinational search for the missing plane as an unprecedented and complicated effort and defended his country's efforts. Some 43 ships and 39 aircraft from at least eight nations were scouring an area of 35,800 square miles.
"It's not something that is easy. We are looking at so many vessels and aircraft, so many countries to coordinate, and a vast area for us to search," he said. "But we will never give up. This we owe to the families" of those on board.