Relatives of passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 claimed that they were able to call cell phones of their loves ones, according to media reports.
The Washington Post said that the families of some of the 239 people onboard the missing Boeing 777 claimed to have heard the mobile ringtones.
"In some cases, the relatives could see them active online through a local Chinese networking site called QQ," the Post reported.
The eerie development comes even as Malaysian authorities described MH370's disappearance an unprecedented mystery.
One man told the Washington Post that his brother-in-law's QQ account indicated that he was online.
Frustratingly for those desperate for some news or sign, messages have gone unanswered and calls were not picked up.
Search and rescue (SAR) operation involving 10 countries has so far failed to find any trace of the missing airliner.
Britain's Daily Mail reported that the phantom phone calls and online presence had set off a new level of hysteria among relatives and next-of-kin, most of whom have spent three days cooped up at a Beijing Hotel waiting for news on the missing plane.
MAS officials in Beijing have been told repeatedly about the QQ accounts and ringing telephone calls, and relatives are hoping that SAR forces will be able to triangulate the GPS signals of the phones to locate their loved ones.
Bian Liangwei, sister of one of the passengers aboard MH370, claimed that she was able to reach her elder brother's phone.
"This morning, around 11:40am, I called my older brother's number twice, and I got the ringing tone," she told the International Business Times.
Phones of MH370 passengers ringing, online accounts active, claim relatives
At 2pm, Bian called again and again heard its ring tone.
"If I could get through, the police could locate the position, and there is a chance he could still be alive," she said.
However, at a press conference in Beijing, MAS spokesman Ignatius Ong said one of the numbers provided to the airline's head office in Kuala Lumpur had failed to get through.
"I myself have called the number five times while the airline's command centre also called the number. We got no answering tone," Ong said.
Search for the missing plane has now moved to the Straits of Malacca, some 100 miles away from where it was last recorded by electronic monitoring devices.
The dramatic shift raises the possibility that it flew undetected, crossing mainland Malaysia, before ditching into the sea.
MAS said Malaysia's western coast near the Straits of Malacca was now the focus of the hunt.
Civil aviation chief Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, however, said the statement didn't imply authorities believed the plane was off the western coast.
"The search is on both sides," he said.
The plane was carrying 239 people when it vanished off radar screens early Saturday morning en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, triggering a massive international search effort.
Authorities have expanded their search to include areas where the plane could have in theory ended up given the amount of fuel it had on board.
On Sunday, Malaysia's air force chief said military radar indicated that the jet might have turned back before disappearing. – March 11, 2014.
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