Hong Kong -

The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet has been expanded into the vast Indian Ocean.

Here is a timeline of major developments since the plane vanished early on Saturday with 239 people on board, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing...

SATURDAY MARCH 8

- Malaysia Airlines says the Boeing 777 lost contact with air traffic control at around 1.30am (17h30 GMT on Friday), about an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Initially, authorities had put the last contact time at 2.40am.

- Vietnam says the plane went missing near its airspace. It launches a search operation that expands into a huge international hunt in the South China Sea, involving dozens of ships and aircraft from countries including the US and Japan.

- Tearful relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers criticise Malaysia Airlines over a lack of information.

- Vietnamese planes spot two large oil slicks near the plane's last known location, but it proves a false alarm.

- It also emerges that two passengers were travelling on stolen EU passports, fuelling speculation of a terrorist attack.

SUNDAY MARCH 9

- Malaysia says it is probing a possible terror link to the jet's disappearance. The US sends FBI agents to assist in the investigation.

- Malaysia raises the first of several suggestions that the plane may have veered radically off-course - with the air force chief saying it may have turned back towards Kuala Lumpur for no apparent reason.

- A Vietnamese plane spots possible debris off southwest Vietnam - but this too yields no sign of the airliner.

MONDAY MARCH 10

- Authorities double the search radius to 100 nautical miles (185km) around the point where MH370 disappeared from radar.

- China lashes out at Malaysia, saying it needs to speed up the investigation.

- Malaysia sends ships to investigate a sighting of a possible life raft, but a Vietnamese vessel that gets there first finds only flotsam.

- Chemical analysis by Malaysia disproves any link between oil slicks found at sea and the missing plane.

TUESDAY MARCH 11

- The search area now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula itself, the waters off its west coast, and an area to the north of Indonesia's Sumatra island - all far removed from the flight's scheduled route.

- Authorities identify the two men with stolen passports as young Iranians who are believed to be illegal immigrants - not terrorists.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 12

- Malaysia expands the search zone to include the Malacca Strait off the country's west coast and the Andaman Sea north of Indonesia, hundreds of kilometres away.

- Malaysia's air force chief says an unidentified object was detected on military radar north of the Malacca Strait early Saturday - less than an hour after the plane lost contact - but says it is still being investigated.

- At a heated news conference, Malaysian officials deny that the search is in disarray after China says conflicting information about its course is “pretty chaotic”.

- It emerges that US regulators warned months ago of a “cracking and corrosion” problem on Boeing 777s that could lead to a mid-air break-up - but the manufacturer later confirms that the warning did not apply to the missing plane, which had a different kind of antenna.

THURSDAY MARCH 13

- Malaysia dismisses a report in the Wall Street Journal which said US investigators suspect the plane flew on for four hours after its last known contact, based on data sent from its engines.

- Authorities in Kuala Lumpur also say that Chinese satellite images of suspected debris in the South China Sea are yet another false lead.

- India steps up its search, sending three ships and three aircraft to the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

FRIDAY MARCH 14

- The hunt spreads to the Indian Ocean after the White House cites unspecified “new information” that the jet may have flown on after losing contact.

- Multiple US media reports, citing US officials, say the plane's communication system - not the engines - continued to “ping” a satellite for hours after it disappeared, suggesting it may have travelled a huge distance in an unknown direction.

- A US warship, initially deployed to Thailand, is among the vessels joining the Indian Ocean search. - Sapa-AFP