Incident thrust Vietnamese island into international limelight

Incident thrust Vietnamese island into international limelight
A Vietnam Coast Guard sea plane taxies on the runway as it prepares to take off at an airport in Phu Quoc island to search for the missing MH370 flight.

VIETNAM - Phu Quoc island is Vietnam's next big tourism hope. Its spanking new international airport opened two years ago, and it roads are being transformed from dirt to tar.

Earlier this month, the government even granted a 30-day visa exemption for foreign visitors to this island.

However, the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 has thrust the island into international limelight quicker than imagined, as the Vietnamese authorities coordinate their search efforts from here.

Every day, helicopters scouring the seas for the missing jetliner take off and land from Phu Quoc International Airport's newly upgraded runway, while its air traffic control centre serves as a makeshift news centre for hordes of Vietnamese, Chinese and Malaysian reporters.

The last known position of the missing MAS plane was off the waters of Ca Mau province on the southern tip of Vietnam.

Hanoi is taking the search seriously, temporarily setting aside maritime disputes to allow Chinese search vessels into its seas and committing at least eight ships and seven aircraft to the search.

Despite several fruitless days searching for the passenger plane, Vietnamese Air Force Deputy Commander Do Minh Tuan would not say when his country would call it quits.

"We will keep trying," he told reporters in Phu Quoc.

The sunny island is also home to a naval unit, which is joining in the search.

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