Vietnamese air force planes have spotted two large oil slicks off the southern tip of Vietnam which may be from a missing Malaysian jetliner that was carrying 239 people, including six Australians.
The discovery of the slicks provided the first clue in the disappearance of Flight 370, a Boeing Co. 777-200 that was an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Twin sheens of oil spread as long as 15 kilometers south of Vietnam's Tho Chu island, the country's government said.
The jet's fate baffled the six nations searching for the aircraft, with no reports of distress calls, emergency-beacon signals or bad weather and no indications why a plane would lose touch in one of the safest phases of flight. The prospect of foul play arose after Austria and Italy said that two passengers used passports stolen from their nationals, both of them men.
Italian Luigi Maraldi, 37, was on holiday in Thailand and immediately phoned home after seeing on the news that an Italian with his name was on the vanished airliner - and before his father had seen the news.
‘‘I turned on (rolling television news channel) RAI News24 and I saw what had happened. Thankfully, everything is OK. Luigi is on holiday, he’s coming home in three weeks,’’ his father told news agency Ansa on Saturday.
Malaysia Airlines meanwhile also contacted Austria’s foreign ministry, saying that the name of an Austrian was also on the passenger list of the plane, a spokesman for the ministry said in Vienna. The man has been identified in media reports as Christian Kozel.
‘‘We contacted the person to whom the passport belonged. This person is in Austria and safe and sound. His passport was stolen in 2012 on a trip to Thailand,’’ spokesman Martin Weiss said.
While there was no information pointing to a possible bomb or terror attack, Malaysia is studying all possibilities, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters.
The stolen Austrian passport belonged to a 30-year-old man who reported the theft in 2012 in Phuket, Thailand, the foreign ministry said. He was contacted and found to be "well," said Martin Weiss, a ministry spokesman. Luigi Maraldi, an Italian national also shown on the manifest, didn't travel on the plane, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aldo Amati said.
The story Oil slicks found at sea in search for Malaysia jet first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.