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Missing Malaysia Airlines plane

South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand: 5 things you need to know about the area

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing on March 8, 2014 while flying over an area where the Gulf of Thailand meets the South China Sea. Here are five things you need to know about the area.

Published on Mar 10, 2014 3:51 PM
 
In this aerial picture taken from a Soviet-made AN-26 used by the Vietnamese Air Force to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a boat is seen sailing past oil spills in the water off the southern seas of Vietnam on March 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared off radar screens on March 8, 2014 while flying over an area where the Gulf of Thailand meets the South China Sea. Here are five things you need to know about the region:

 

1. The South China Sea covers about 3.5 million sq km, more than 4,880 times the size of Singapore. Its south-western part, including where the Gulf of Thailand lies, is a submerged plain where the water is generally shallow, less than 60m deep. The north-eastern part of the South China Sea, however reaches depths of up to about 5,490m.

2.  There are over 250 small islands and reefs in the South China Sea and the region is subject to violent typhoons. But there was no bad weather report or distress call from the Malaysia Airlines plane before it lost contact with ground air control.

MH370 flight path

3. The South China Sea contains some of the world’s most important shipping lanes. It also has rich fishing grounds and is believed to have potentially significant gas and oil deposits.

4. The area is a source of political tension, with simmering territorial disputes involving several countries. China has claimed sovereignty over most of the resource-rich South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel island chains. But Taiwan and Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have also laid claim to portions of the territories.

5. The Gulf of Thailand, which used to be called the Gulf of Siam, is an inlet of the South China Sea . It covers an area roughly 320,000 sq km in size. The gulf is relatively shallow: Its mean depth is 45m, and at its deepest, it is just 80m. There are many coral reefs in the Gulf of Thailand, making it a popular tourist destination for diving and beach holidays. Among the more popular tourist sites are Pattaya, and the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Samet

 

Sources: Wikipedia, CIA World Factbook, The Straits Times

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