Vietnam spots object suspected to be part of missing Malaysian jetliner

AFP

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A seaplane of the Vietnam Air Force spotted a floating object suspected to be a window of an airplane as it was searching for the Malaysia Airlines jetliner which vanished with 239 people on board in the waters near Vietnam on Saturday.

The object was spotted at around 6:30 p.m. Vietnamese time around 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Tho Chu Island, located off Vietnam's southwest coast in the Gulf of Thailand.

Two boats have been sent to the spot but they "have found nothing as yet", Colonel Doan Bao Quyet, an official responsible for the search, told Thanh Nien.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities were looking into the "possibility" that the airline had attempted to turn back, the country's air force chief said Sunday.
Authorities also said they were expanding their search for wreckage to the west coast of Malaysia. Searches so far had concentrated on waters to the country's east, in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea.
"There is a distinct possibility the airplane did a turn-back, deviating from the course," said General Rodzali Daud, citing radar data.
"One of the possibilities is that it was returning to Kuala Lumpur."
Malaysian Airlines flight 370 vanished early Saturday, with the last known location of the Boeing 777-200 recorded over waters somewhere between Malaysia and southern Vietnam.
No debris has yet been found though Vietnam has said its search planes spotted oil slicks near where contact with the plane was lost.
Colonel Hoang Van Phong, pilot on AN26 which is one of two aircraft sent by Vietnamese Air Force to the search, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspapers the oil slicks on Sunday have widened around four times from the day earlier.
"They've been spreading fast westwards, which is sign of a very huge amount of oil," Phong was quoted by Tuoi Tre as saying.
Phong said his team would take photos if the oil slicks and send them to both Vietnam and Malaysia search units.
Rodzali, the air force chief,  said a turn-back was "corroborated by civil radar", giving no further details.
But Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the plane's systems would have set off alarm bells.
"When there is an air turn-back the pilot would be unable to proceed as planned," he said, adding authorities were "quite puzzled" over the situation.
Officials also said authorities were expanding a search operation to Malaysia's western coast, facing the huge Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Rodzali said Malaysia had "requested our Indonesian friends to assist us in that matter."

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