Security officers on patrol at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, on March 9 / PHOTO: DUY THANG
The Ministry of Transport on Sunday ordered local airports and airlines to tighten their security after a Malaysian plane with 239 people aboard vanished near Vietnam, raising possibility of hijack.
Speaking to online newspaper Dan Tri, Dinh Viet Thang, deputy chief of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV), said Vietnam is now on the first level of a three-level security alert system.
It is not the highest level, but an initial warning is necessary for improving the national aviation security, given that a Malaysian jet went missing in an area related to Vietnam, he said.
Following the Vietnamese ministry’s order, security was tightened in and around the country’s largest airport Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City and Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.
Passengers are randomly subjected to intensive checks, before boarding a plane.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the Boeing B777-200 aircraft (flight MH 370) of Malaysia Airlines more than two hours after it departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on Saturday.
It took off at 12:21 a.m. (1621 GMT Friday) and was scheduled for landing in China’s capital at 6:30 a.m. (2230 GMT) the same day.
CAAV said the airplane failed to check in at 12:21 a.m. Saturday (1721 GMT Friday) when it was supposed to be present in Ho Chi Minh City’s flight information region (FIR).
Its last radar contact suggested that the airplane went missing in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.
Malaysian authorities and the US’s FBI are investigating the possibility that it was hijacked, after at least two passengers who boarded the plane were found using false identity documents.
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 during the past two years.
In the meantime, the airplane is still nowhere to be found, although dozens of aircraft and boats have been dispatched from Malaysia and other countries, including China, Thailand, the US, and Vietnam to look for it.
Vietnam’s navy forces on Sunday reported the sighting of an object suspected of being part of the airplane around 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Tho Chu Island, located off Vietnam's southwest coast in the Gulf of Thailand.
The country dispatched more aircraft to investigate the site on Monday morning.
Previously Vietnam also reported oil slicks in its waters.
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