Rain was expected to hamper the hunt Monday for debris suspected of being from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, as the United States prepared to move a specialized device that can locate black boxes into the south Indian Ocean region.
The U.S. Pacific command said it was sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located. The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability so that if the wreck site is located, it can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet (6,100 meters), Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. Seventh Fleet operations officer, said in a statement.
“This movement is simply a prudent effort to preposition equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area so that if debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as possible since the battery life of the black box’s pinger is limited,” Budde said.
There was no sign the move was because of any break in the mystery of the plane that went missing March 8 with 239 people on board, but rather as a preparation.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s rescue coordination center said the search area was expanded from 59,000 to 68,500 square kilometers (22,800-26,400 square miles) and that two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 planes had joined the search from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft to 10 from eight a day earlier.
It said the weather in the search area, about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, was expected to deteriorate with rain likely.
Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said “nothing of note” was found Sunday, which he described as a “fruitless day.”
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll stick at it,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio before the first aircraft left Perth at dawn.
He said that the latest search area based on French radar data was 850 kilometers (530 miles) north of the previous search zone. He said it was not the same area that had been identified as the most likely place where the aircraft may have entered the sea, “but … we’ve got to check out all the options.”
“We’re just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts,” he added.
A cyclone bearing down on the Australian northwest coast “could stir up less favorable weather,” he said.
Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search continued…