Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysia Airlines flight missing with 239 on board may have turned around just before it vanished from radar screens, the country’s air force chief said yesterday as the government said it had contacted counter-terrorism agencies around the world.

Hoping against hope: Relatives of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight await and pray for some news about their loved ones. It’s been two days now that the plane went missing. Pic/AFP

The airline warned families to prepare for the worst as they endured a second day without news. The search of waters between Malaysia and Vietnam for any trace of flight MH370 has widened.

At least two people on the plane were travelling together on stolen passports, fuelling concerns about the Boeing-777’s abrupt disappearance in the early hours of Saturday. However, experts said there were many possible reasons for why it vanished and for people to travel on false documents.

Malaysian officials said they were looking at four suspect identities and were examining the entire passenger manifest. Interpol confirmed that at least two passports were listed in its database as stolen and that it was examining other documents.

The Beijing-bound Boeing-777 had reached cruising altitude when it disappeared from radar screens around 40 minutes after taking off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.40 am on Saturday.

The air force chief Rodzali Daud said that it appeared to have gone off-route. “We are trying to make sense of this ... The military radar indicated that the aircraft may have made a turn back and in some parts, this was corroborated by civilian radar,” he said.

The chief executive of Malaysia Airlines, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said the plane had not informed the airline and air traffic control authorities of its change of course, as it was supposed to do in such circumstances.