Vietnamese state media has quoted a navy officer as stating that the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 that went missing en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur went down off the coast of Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island. On its website, the Vietnamese government said that contact was lost in the airspace of Ca Mau province with the aircraft before it would have entered into contact with Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control. Lai Xuan Thanh, the director of Vietnam’s civil aviation authority, said that the plane was bound for Vietnamese airspace and was located over the South China Sea but the country’s air traffic officials were never able to make contact with the aircraft.
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200IGW passenger jet, was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers who were of 13 different nationalities. The flight departed from KLIA at 12:41 a.m. on March 8 from the capital of Malaysia and was expected to arrive at its destination, the capital of China, at 6:30 a.m. the same day. A statement released by Malaysia Airlines confirmed that Subang Air Traffic Control lost contact with the aircraft two hours into the flight, at 2:40 a.m.
According to a Xinhua news agency, the aircraft disappeared from radar in Vietnam-controlled airspace, and Chinese officials confirmed that the plane did not enter China airspace. A Malaysia Airlines vice president stated that there were no distress calls prior to the loss of contact. Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement at 9:05 a.m. MY Local Time that team members were in the process of contacting next-of-kin of the crew and passengers and that Malaysia Airlines’ focus it working with authorities and mobilizing the full support of emergency responders. In an interview with CNN International, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo said that the lack of communication suggested to her that something very unfortunate has happened. Schiavo added that naturally this did not mean that there were not many people needing to be rescued and secured: “There’s still a very urgent need to find that plane and to render aid.”
Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement that a joint rescue is being conducted by Vietnam and Malaysia and Vietnam, but he gave no details. According to a microblog for China state television, it has sent two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to aid in the rescue efforts.
A Vietnamese newspaper reported the Vietnamese Navy had said the aircraft had crashed into the ocean, and according to the reports the plane’s crash was detected by Vietnamese military radar. A Vietnamese navy officer who was quoted by the state media said that the plane went into the sea approximately 153 miles from the coast of Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island. Admiral Ngo Van Phat told Tuoi Tre News that boats from Phu Quoc Island were to be prepared for rescue as there were no Vietnamese Navy boats currently in the area. It has not been confirmed whether wreckage had been seen or how the navy knew where the plane had crashed, and Malaysia Airlines has not confirmed the report by the Vietnamese state media.
by Donna Westlund