Vietnam downgrades jet search from emergency to 'regular'

Vietnam downgrades jet search from emergency to 'regular'
This picture taken on March 8, 2014 shows military personnel scanning the sea aboard a Vietnamese Air Force aircraft taking part in a search mission for a missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft, somewhere between Malaysia's east coast and southern Vietnam.

HANOI - Vietnam has downgraded its search for a missing Malaysian airliner from "emergency to regular," an official said Friday, as the hunt shifted to the Indian Ocean and away from the South China Sea where the jet last made contact.

Vietnam deployed three search planes on Friday, down from five on Thursday, according to search and rescue committee spokesman Nguyen Ngoc Son.

He said Vietnam would consider helping search for missing flight MH370 in the Strait of Malacca on the other side of Malaysia, but said that no official request for such assistance had yet been received.

Vietnam has played a leading role in the search for the Boeing 777 that vanished early Saturday over the South China Sea with 239 people aboard, just before it should have made contact with Vietnamese air traffic control.

The communist country deployed planes, boats and even the commercial fishing fleet in its first major search and rescue effort, but despite repeated false alarms over oil slicks and potential debris sightings no trace of the missing aircraft has been found.

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