Missing airliner: No trace but hope sustains search (Roundup)

Canberra, March 23: Search for a missing Malaysian airliner yielded no result even more than a fortnight after it disappeared but Australian acting Prime Minister Warren Truss Sunday said the hunt will continue as long as there is hope. Search continued in the southern Indian Ocean after sightings of debris believed to be from the plane.

In its latest update Sunday night after the conclusion of the day’s search operation, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said there were no sightings of significance.

“The search area experienced early sea fog particularly in the western areas, however, conditions improved during the day,” it said.

A total of eight aircraft and the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Success supported Sunday’s search effort in a cumulative 59,000 sq km search area across two search areas within the Australian Search and Rescue Region southwest of Perth.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

The western boundary of the multinational current search area is around 2,500 km southwest of Perth.

Four civil ultra-long range jets chartered by AMSA and four military aircraft from Australia and the US were involved in Sunday’s search together with the HMAS Success.

Twenty State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers from Western Australia were tasked as air observers Sunday on board the civil aircraft.

“Each civil aircraft had five SES air observers on board, as well as an AeroRescue Aviation Mission Coordinator. Aerorescue is AMSA’s contracted provider of dedicated search and rescue services from locations across Australia,” the AMSA said in its statement.

“The search will resume tomorrow. Chinese military Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft and Japanese P-3C aircraft will join the search Monday.”

Earlier Sunday, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss reiterated that the search would continue in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian airliner as long as there was hope, Xinhua reported.

“We’re hopeful obviously for breakthroughs but these kinds of searches can take a very long time especially when they’re in remote locations as is the case in this instance,” Truss said in a press conference at the AMSA here.

“We hope that soon there’ll be more information available that might help provide some kind of closure or at least an understanding of what’s happened, especially to the families of those who were on board Malaysia Airlines flight 370,” said Truss.

“The search will continue and will continue as long as there’s hope, and I hope that we’ll find a time soon when we’re able to conclusively say once and for all that we are close to finding where this plane may now be located,” he added.

John Young, AMSA general manager of emergency response, said searchers were Sunday hoping to find again the objects spotted by airborne observers the day before so they could be recovered and to find the objects identified in American and Chinese satellite photos.

“Today is really a visual search again and visual searches take some time. They can be difficult,” Young said at the press conference.

Two Chinese Ilyushin 76 aircraft had been preparing for the operation on Sunday and would take part Monday, while Chinese warships were expected to arrive in the area Tuesday, said Young.

“China clearly has an intense interest in this search operation. I believe they had 154 people on board the aircraft,” he said.

Mike Barton, chief of the AMSA Rescue Coordination Centre, said four civil and four military aircraft took part in Sunday’s search.

AMSA personnel were coordinating information gained from self-locating datum buoys with expert opinions from home and abroad to identify search areas, he told the press conference.

“We put all of that information together and any new intelligence that comes to us about satellites to formulate an area and we’ll redo it again tonight based on what observations might have occurred in today’s flying and look to go out searching again and then we’ll do it again and again until we have some sort of closure or positive sightings in the area,” said Barton.

Observers Saturday identified a wooden pallet, some strapping belts of different colours and “other nondescript items”, he said.

The use of wooden pallets is quite common in the airline industry, he said.

“The challenge of this search hinges around its remoteness from anywhere,” said Barton.

“The aircraft are operating at extreme ranges from Perth, which is the closest air field, or RAAF Base Pearce, which is up the road, and so at 2,500 km away they’re operating at the limits of their endurance and only having a short period of one to two hours in the search area, and then back again,” he said.

“That’s only allowing us to get in a singular search a day which is again spreading the search out over several days.”

IANS