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MH370 SEARCH: Tropical cyclone threatens to impede search
Publication Date : 22-04-2014
A tropical cyclone threatened to hamper the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean on Monday, as a submarine drone neared the end of its mission scouring the seabed with still no sign of wreckage.
The Australia-led multinational search for MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people including 154 Chinese passengers on board, narrowed to a 10-square-kilometer patch of sea floor about 2,000 km west of the Australian city of Perth, Reuters reported.
Search authorities and the Australian and Malaysian governments had said a series of sonar signals, or "pings", traced to the area may have emanated from the plane's black box data recorders and presented the most credible lead.
But no pings have been detected in almost two weeks and authorities now fear that, with the flight recorder's battery several weeks past its expected expiration date, the black boxes may not emit further signals.
A US Navy remote-controlled submarine, the Bluefin-21, was on its ninth mission scanning the largely unmapped stretch of seabed where the pings are believed to have come from, 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 Center said in a statement.
The center said 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.
Air search continues
On Saturday, the center said the Bluefin-21 was expected to complete its search of the targeted area within a week.
Search coordinator Angus Houston also said on April 14 that an air and surface search for debris would end within three days.
But the daily sorties have continued unabated, in a search involving some two-dozen nations and estimated to be the most expensive in aviation history.
On Monday, up to 10 military aircraft and 11 ships were set to help in the day's search, with a total search area covering about 49,500 sq km.
Authorities have also indicated they may reassess within days how to approach the search, given that nothing has so far been found, AFP reported.
The Malaysian government has said the search is at a "very critical juncture", and Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said it may consider using more remote-controlled submarines.
Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday that the families of the passengers and crew of MH370 will also receive financial assistance from MAS to ease their burdens, Xinhua News Agency reported.
"Those affected will all receive some form of financial assistance from MAS," he said.
Hamzah said the assistance will come from the airline, with the government to bear some of the costs if there is a need for it.
He said he will travel to Beijing soon to ensure that bilateral ties between Malaysia and China will not be affected by the incident.