Oil slicks found in hunt for missing Malaysia jet

The oil slicks were spotted off the southern tip of Vietnam

Published: Updated:

Two large oil slicks close to where a Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 passengers went missing were spotted by Vietnamese air force planes on Saturday.

By the early hours of Sunday, there were no confirmed signs of the plane or any wreckage, well over 24 hours after it went missing. Operations will continue through the night, officials said.

The oil slicks were spotted late Saturday off the southern tip of Vietnam and were each between 10 kilometers and 15 kilometers long, the Vietnamese government said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

Although there was no confirmation that the slicks were related to the missing plane, the statement said they were consistent with the type that would be produced by the two fuel tanks of a crashed jetliner.

The plane may have crashed in Malaysian waters, 246 kilometers off the coast of Vietnam's Tho Chu island, according to its speed and last known location, Vietnamese navy officer Admiral Ngo Van Phat said earlier.

The admiral denied earlier reports in Vietnamese state media quoting him as saying the plane had actually crashed.

Tho Chu lies to the southwest of southern Vietnam and Phu Quoc Island, a popular tourist destination.

“Thai and Malaysian rescue teams would be better placed to conduct a rescue but Vietnamese navy boats in Phu Quoc Island are ready to support any mission if requested,” Phat told Reuters by telephone.

Search operations

No sign had yet been found of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished from radar screens earlier on Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said, according to Reuters.

Search operations in an area about midway between Malaysia and Vietnam's southern coast were being intensified, he said.

In the meantime, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged Malaysia to quickly and vigorously push search and rescue work for the missing plane state news agency Xinhua reported.

Keqiang made the comments in a call with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Xinhua added.

Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore are conducting joint search and rescue operations for the missing plane, Xinhua said, according to Reuters.

Malaysia Airline’s chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, announced the carrier will continue to run other flights as normal.

The flight lost contact with the air traffic control after leaving Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lampur, the carrier said.

The airline said in a statement that Flight MH370 disappeared Saturday at 2:40 a.m. local time (1840 GMT Friday).

The flight, which was bound for Beijing, was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members.

The plane, a Boeing 777-200, left Kuala Lumpur 41 minutes after midnight Saturday, had been due to arrive in Beijing at 6:30 am local time (2230 GMT Friday).

On board were 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians and seven Australians among the 227 passengers, the airline said on Saturday.

An Italian and an Austrian feared to have died on a Malaysia Airlines passenger aircraft that went missing in Asia on Saturday had their passports stolen and are safe, officials said on Saturday.

There were also three U.S. citizens, three from France, two passengers each from New Zealand, Ukraine, and Canada, and one each from Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Austria, the airline said in a statement. There were also two infants. Twelve crew members were also on the flight.

A spokeswoman said she could not immediately provide further details.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) planes have had few accidents.

One of the smaller Twin Otter aircraft, operated by MASwings, crashed upon landing in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island last October, killing a co-pilot and a passenger

(With the Associated Press, AFP and Reuters)