As the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 goes on, chaos and confusion surrounds search efforts in Vietnam. The chances of the jet being found in the area appear to be diminishing each day, as journalists hunt for reliable information and officials struggle to provide answers.
Vietnamese rescue teams have been working around the clock since the plane carrying 239 people went missing last Saturday, following up on almost daily reports of suspected plane wreckage being spotted in Vietnamese waters.
Attention has focused on waters surrounding Phu Quoc island in the southwest of the country. But, so far, each initially promising lead has turned out to be another dead end.
Tests carried out on an oil slick spotted by the Vietnamese airforce last Saturday confirmed it was bunker fuel, used by ships but not aircraft. On Monday, planes were scrambled to scour waters off Vung Tau province in the south after a Cathay Pacific crew reported seeing possible debris in the area.
Nothing was found.
Similar searches off Tho Chu island near to Phu Quoc on Tuesday also proved fruitless.
Meanwhile, scores of journalists from around the world have descended on Phu Quoc, where confusion and a shortage of official information on the search efforts have baffled many.
At daily press briefings authorities have repeatedly denied reports suggesting the plane might have crashed in nearby waters, even as the same authorities have pledged to beef up the country’s search and rescue efforts. Deputy transport minister Pham Quy Tieu said on Monday there was “no hope for positive information from the ill-fated plane”.
The Post gained access to the island’s navy base but officers there were unwilling to offer any update on the search operation.
One officer said that no command centre had been set up on the island. Hours later, a press briefing was held at the Phu Quoc air traffic control centre, which had been turned into a rescue command centre.
After Tuesday’s report that the Malaysian authorities had tracked flight MH370 near to the Strait of Malacca, the deputy transport minister announced that the country was suspending its air search and scaling back its sea effort while it awaited confirmation from the Malaysian authorities.
For the locals and tourists looking on, life continues in relative normality.
“Oh, the missing plane? I heard about it but I don’t know what happened,” is the reply most have given the Post in the last few days.