The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished on
March 8 with 239 people on board, has narrowed to a 10 sq km (6.2 sq
mile) patch of sea floor about 2,000 km (1,200 miles) west of the
Australian city of Perth.
Search authorities and the Australian and Malaysian governments have
said a series of sonar signals, or "pings", traced to the area may
have emanated from the plane's "black box" and present the most
credible lead as to its whereabouts.
However no pings have been detected in almost two weeks and
authorities now fear that, with the flight data recorder's battery
several weeks past its expected expiry date, the black box may not
emit further signals.
A U.S. Navy remote controlled submarine, the Bluefin-21, was on its
ninth mission scanning the largely unmapped stretch of sea bed where
the pings are believed to have come from, with still no trace found,
Australian search officials said on Monday.
"Bluefin-21 has searched approximately two-thirds of the focused
underwater search area to date. No contacts of interest have been
found to date," the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a
The center added that the search, which has so far been largely
unimpeded by weather, may be affected as Tropical Cyclone Jack
continued to move south over the ocean.
"Widespread showers are developing with isolated thunderstorms to
the north and east south-easterly winds," the center said of the
weather forecast in the search area.
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AIR SEARCH CONTINUES
On Saturday, the center said the Bluefin-21 was expected to complete
its search of the targeted area within a week. But with the prospect
of that search ending without finding any sign of the plane drawing
ever more likely, the authorities are under pressure to determine
their next strategy.
The search coordinator, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston,
said on April 14 that an air and surface search for debris would end
within three days.
But the daily sorties have continued unabated since then, in a
search involving some two dozen nations and already estimated to be
the most expensive in aviation history.
On Monday, up to 10 military aircraft and 11 ships were expected to
help in the day's search, with a total search area covering about
49,491 sq km (19,100 sq miles).
The Malaysian government has said the search is at a "very critical
juncture" and asked for prayers for its success. Malaysian Acting
Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has also said the government
may consider using more remote controlled submarines in the search.
(Editing by Alex Richardson)
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