Sunday, Apr 19, 2015

Plane hunt at ‘critical juncture’, search on

A relative of one of the Chinese passengers onboard MH370 grieves at a hotel conference room in Beijing Friday evening. (Photo: AP) A relative of one of the Chinese passengers onboard MH370 grieves at a hotel conference room in Beijing Friday evening. (Photo: AP)
By: Press Trust of India | Kuala Lumpur | Published on:April 20, 2014 12:33 am

A ROBOTIC mini-submarine Saturday continued to scour the remote depths of the Indian Ocean for signs of wreckage of the missing Malaysian jet even as Malaysia said the search was at a “critical juncture”.

“The narrowing of the search for today and tomorrow is at a critical juncture,” said Malaysia’s Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, adding that the search area for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has narrowed and that the Bluefin-21 would finish searching the area within the next week.

“I appeal to everyone around the world to pray and pray hard that we find something to work on in the next couple of days,” he said.

The Bluefin-21 submersible is mapping the area of the sea bed within a 10 km radius of where acoustic signals were detected believed to be from the plane’s flight recorder.

Operated by the US Navy off the Australian vessel Ocean Shield, the Bluefin is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can identify objects by creating a sonar map of the sea floor, as the search entered its 43rd day.

It is searching in an area defined by four acoustic signals picked up by an Australian search team, and was deployed after officials concluded that the batteries on the plane’s flight recorders would likely have expired, given their one-month shelf life.

The submersible has an operating depth of 4,500 metres and on its first mission a built-in safety device returned it to the surface after it exceeded that depth. Authorities have now adjusted the device to allow it to go as deep as 4,695 metres.

The mystery of the missing plane continued to baffle aviation and security authorities who have so far not succeeded in tracking the aircraft despite deploying hi-tech radar and other gadgets.

The Beijing-bound jetliner – carrying 239 people, including five Indians, an Indo-Canadian and 154 Chinese nationals – had mysteriously vanished on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

“Bluefin-21 has searched approximately 133 square kilometres to date. Data from the sixth mission is currently under analysis. No contacts of interest have been found to date,” a statement said.

Up to 11 military aircraft and 12 ships are assisting in Saturday’s search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

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