US President Barack Obama on Saturday promised fresh support to Malaysia in tracking down the plane missing for past 50 days even as a robotic mini-submarine failed to locate any wreckage despite scouring about 95 per cent of the search area in Indian Ocean.
Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, leading Malaysia’s efforts to determine the fate of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, said he spoke to Obama briefly after he arrived here for an official visit.
“He said he knows it is a tough, long, road ahead. We’ll work together. There is always support,” Hishammuddin said, adding: “I’m very happy to hear (this) because it is a long journey.”
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Obama, who flew into Malaysia on his three-day visit, was welcomed by King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Malaysia is the third leg of Obama’s four-nation tour of Asia that has taken him to Japan and South Korea, and he will end his trip with a visit to the Philippines on Monday.
The Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 with 239 people onboard, including five Indians veered off from its route after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
The mystery of the missing plane has continued to baffle aviation and security authorities who have so far failed to trace the aircraft despite deploying hi-technology radar and other gadgets.
A robotic mini-submarine scouring the seabed for wreckage of the plane has failed to yield results after 13 missions and searching nearly 95 per cent of the focused underwater search area.
Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Bluefin-21, a US Navy probe equipped with side-scan sonar, is currently completing mission 14, Perth-based Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) leading the search said. If no contacts of interest are made, the Bluefin will continue to examine the areas adjacent to the 10km radius, the JACC said in a statement.
The Bluefin had to abort its 13th mission yesterday and resurface due to a software issue that required resetting. The AUV has technically sophisticated equipment and a reset is not uncommon. Overnight Phoenix technicians resolved the issue and mission 14 is now underway, it said.
Up to 8 military aircraft and 11 ships were assisting in Saturday’s search for missing airliner. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority planned a visual search area totalling approximately 57,311 sq kms for Saturday. The centre of the search area lies approximately 1,584 kms north west of Perth.
A major challenge that has complicated the search is floating garbage in the ocean. Other objects spotted in the Indian Ocean earlier turned out to be trash, jellyfish and fishing gear.
Australia has indicated that the approach to the search might be revised with more powerful underwater vehicles if the Bluefin’s search yields no results. It is mulling deploying a more powerful system that tracked the Titanic 29
years ago to locate the wreckage of the plane.
Faced with anger and frustration from distraught families of 227 passengers on the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight, Najib on Thursday promised a preliminary report on the mysterious disappearance of the plane will be released to the
public next week.
Najib’s assurance, however, did not stop dozens of relatives of the Chinese passengers – who comprised 153 of the 239 on board the ill-fated plane – to protest in front of the Malaysian embassy located opposite the Indian mission here on Friday.
China has shut down the diplomatic district housing both the Indian and American embassies following the protest.