Cyclone halts aerial search for MH370

2014-04-22 08:01
A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76s aircraft taxis on the tarmac after landing at Perth International Airport following its return from ongoing search operations for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (Theron Kirkman, AFP)

A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76s aircraft taxis on the tarmac after landing at Perth International Airport following its return from ongoing search operations for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (Theron Kirkman, AFP)

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Sydney - The aerial search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was suspended on Tuesday due to bad weather caused by a tropical cyclone, officials said, but 10 ships would continue the mission.

Up to 10 military aircraft had been scheduled to fly over the Indian Ocean in hopes of spotting clues as to the fate of the Boeing 777, which vanished on 8 March carrying 239 people.

But the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre managing the search said while the ships off Western Australia would pursue their work, aerial surveillance of a 49 491 square kilometre area had been called off.

"Planned air search activities have been suspended for today due to poor weather conditions in the search area as a result of Tropical Cyclone Jack," JACC said in a statement.

"It has been determined that the current weather conditions are resulting in heavy seas and poor visibility, and would make any air search activities ineffective and potentially hazardous."

Australia is leading the hunt for the aircraft which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean.

No debris has yet been found from the plane and authorities say their best lead has been signals picked up by a black box locator.

Australia's Ocean Shield has deployed an underwater autonomous vehicle (UAV) to scour the seabed at a depth of some 4 500m in the vicinity of these signals, hoping to find wreckage of the missing plane.

But Prime Minister Tony Abbott suggested last week that the submersible Bluefin-21 would only be deployed for about a week, and the sonar scanning device has already covered two-thirds of the search zone without result.

"Bluefin-21 AUV is currently completing mission nine in the underwater search area," JACC said early on Tuesday.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said severe Tropical Cyclone Jack was about 700km west-southwest of the Cocos Islands and moving south-southeast early on Tuesday.

While it posed no threat to the Cocos Islands or Western Australia, the likelihood of the system remaining a tropical cyclone in the region was high on Tuesday.
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