One of two Chinese ships that Vietnam has allowed to enter its waters to look for the missing Malaysian aircraft / PHOTO COURTESY OF KIENTHUC.NET
Vietnam has permitted two Chinese ships to enter its waters to search for the Malaysia Airlines aircraft that went missing near Vietnam Saturday with 239 people on board.
Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of the Army General Staff, said Monday that a landing craft and a frigate with advanced equipment are on their way to Vietnamese waters.
Once they arrive, local forces would work closely with them for the search, he said.
The ships would operate at the site where the jet is thought to be lost in waters between Vietnam and Malaysia.
Online newspaper Dan Tri reported that the Chinese landing craft, which is 210 meters long, is carrying 120 crew members, two helicopters, 10 divers, 52 marines, and health workers.
The 112-meter-long frigate is carrying 168 crew members, and possibly a helicopter.
At a meeting the same day Senior Lieutenant General Do Ba Ty, chief of the Army General Staff, said Vietnam would allow foreign vessels to join the search mission but oversee their activities.
Its ships would lead or accompany foreign vessels to safeguard national security and sovereignty, he added.
Vietnam has been entrusted with searching the waters north of the Ho Chi Minh City flight information region (FIR), while Malaysia is scouring the southern waters, and Singapore the area between the two countries.
Tuan said a US Navy ship which is working with Malaysia in the southern waters has also sought permission from Vietnamese authorities.
The Center for Aviation Search and Rescue said Monday that the resort island of Phu Quoc, the base for the search activities, would have difficulty accommodating the families of the passengers on the aircraft and foreign media persons and officials.
More than 1,000 people are likely to arrive if the plane is found in Vietnamese waters.
The island has 3,900 hotel rooms, of which tourists have taken 2,200, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing B777-200 aircraft disappeared while flying over the sea between Vietnam and Malaysia about an hour after it left Kuala Lumpur at 12:21 a.m. Malaysian time (1621 GMT Friday).
It was scheduled to land in Beijing at 2230 GMT the same day with 227 passengers of 14 nationalities and 12 crew members.
It was supposed to enter the HCMC FIR at 12:21 a.m. Vietnam time (1721 GMT Friday), but failed to, CAAV said.
Dozens of aircraft and ships from many countries have been crisscrossing the waters as they search for clues, but have so far found only oil slicks and some objects suspected to be from the airplane.
Experts around the world have speculated about several possibilities, including a mid-air explosion.
Malaysian authorities and the US’s FBI are investigating the possibility that it was hijacked, after at least two passengers were found to have used stolen passports.
Reuters reported that the airline’s passenger manifest included the names of Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi, but their foreign ministries said they were not on the plane.
Both said their passports had been stolen in Thailand in the last two years.
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