No idea where to look: The hunt for MH370

March 12, 2014 - 1:19:12 am
PHU QUOC, Vietnam: Helicopters and planes criss-cross the sky as scores of boats search below — but officials say the multi-national hunt for missing flight MH370 is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Malaysia doubled the search radius to 185km around the point where Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared from radar over the South China Sea early Saturday.

“The biggest problem is just knowing where to look — especially at night,” Vo Van Tuan, a top Vietnamese military officer who is leading Vietnam’s search effort, said.

The vastness of the search zone reflects authorities’ bafflement over the plane’s disappearance. On the fourth day of searching, the operation had grown to involve 42 ships and 35 aircraft from Southeast Asian countries, Australia, China, New Zealand and the United States. Japan said Tuesday it was sending a plane to join the search efforts.

Vietnam has mobilised its first major search and rescue operation, deploying aircraft, boats and its commercial fishing fleet to help Malaysia search for the jet — even as relatives of the 239 people aboard said their hopes for a miracle were ebbing away.

The hunt to discover the plane’s fate will likely be “a long mission that requires patience,” Vietnamese Major General Do Minh Tuan said as he flew on a military helicopter near the country’s southern Tho Chu island.

“If the plane crashed and sank, some debris will surface, and if we find that we will be able to pinpoint the location of the plane,” he said.

But multiple reports of “suspicious floating objects” have revealed nothing but flotsam, tired Vietnamese rescue officials, putting in 20-hour days, concede.

The total search sphere now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula itself, the waters off its west coast, and an area to the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Vietnam has said it will search on land if needed.