PIC: Cameramen and photographers take aerial pictures during a search flight over the southern seas off the coast of Vietnam.
HANOI – Vietnam has responded strongly and urgently in the search efforts for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. In the southern province of Kien Giang, a command office has been set up at Phu Quoc International Airport in order to assist in coordinating the search for the missing airplane.
Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister, Hoang Trung Hai, has commanded that the search for the plane should go on around the clock and that the search area should be expanded on the news that the plane may have tried to turn around and return to Kuala Lumpur.
Additionally, in the case that the plane is discovered within the country’s ‘Flight Information Region’, the Prime Minister has ordered the Ministries of Transport and National Defense to work with the People’s Committees of Phu Quoc district and southern Kien Giang province in order to coordinate plans for search and rescue activities as well as investigation activities.
Vietnam’s Defense Ministry has been at the fore of the search efforts. The ministry has deployed 17 aircraft and 35 ships of various types from the Air and Air Defense Force, the Navy, the Maritime Police and the Border Guard.
Showing Vietnam’s determination in the search for the missing plane, the country has even allowed two Chinese naval ships to enter their waters and participate in the search. China and Vietnam have for some time engaged in naval posturing over disputed waters and shipping lanes, especially in the South China Sea.
After eagerly flocking in droves to the Phu Quoc Airport, only to find that they must then stand around and await further news, foreign reporters have now been allowed to board Vietnamese naval vessels as they conduct their searches. However, as of this account they have had little to report as the search has continued to come up with no sign of the missing plane.
There have been moments of hope, but these have been quickly dashed. Vietnamese vessels involved in the search mistakenly suspected that a “moss-covered cap of a cable reel” was a life raft from the airplane. However, this mistake was quickly identified. There were eight life rafts on the Malaysian flight. There have been a number of other false sightings by search vessels as the increasingly desperate search continues.
Dao Huu Gia, Deputy General Director of the Vietnam Flight Management Corporation has admitted that, “despite all-out efforts, we have yet to uncover any clue about the missing plane.”
The missing flight disappeared early on March 8 about an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur. The flight was headed for Beijing and had 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board. The search initially focused on the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam. The target area has now been expanded.
Fears of Terrorism
Vietnam’s security services are on heightened alert following rumors of terrorism being a possible cause of the incident – two passengers onboard the missing flight were traveling with stolen passports. The country is now on security level one of its three-tiered security alert system.
In reaction, Vietnam’s airports have all increased their security procedures. The airports in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Tan Son Nhat, and Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, the largest airports in the country, have seen drastically tightened security measures.
Since March 8 Vietnam’s airports have implemented a number of additional screening measures at departure and entry gates, especially for flights to overseas destinations. Before boarding their flights, passengers are being randomly screened with “intensive” checks in order to further increase security.
No terror-related group has claimed responsibility for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 incident.
The Vietnamese government has pledged to remain vigilant for any terror related activities and expressed its determination to continue its search for the missing flight over the days ahead.