Missing MH370: Sense of desperation as MH370 search enters third week

Missing MH370: Sense of desperation as MH370 search enters third week
Royal Australian Air Force Loadmasters preparing to launch a Self Locating Data Marker Buoy from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean.

PERTH, Australia - Australian rescuers stepped up the search for Malaysian Flight MH370 as pressure mounted Saturday to find the missing plane that vanished two weeks ago and has defied the best efforts of modern technology to track it down.

Six planes, including four Orion anti-submarine aircraft packed with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, joined the search for debris from the aircraft over a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean, 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth.

Chinese, British and Australian naval ships were all steaming to the same area where two floating objects - possibly plane wreckage - were picked out on grainy satellite pictures.

With planes from China and Japan also expected to join the hunt, the sudden concentration of resources on the basis of such inconclusive evidence reflects growing desperation after 14 days of piecemeal progress.

There have been no sightings of interest since Thursday, when Australia released the satellite photos taken on March 16.

Some experts warn the larger of the two objects - measuring an estimated 24 metres (79 feet) across - could be a shipping container, while Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss cautioned that any possible debris may have sunk.

"Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating. It may have slipped to the bottom," he said.

After Australian and Malaysian officials hailed the satellite images as the most "credible" lead to date, failure to find anything soon will be a body blow to a search operation already tainted by false leads and dead ends.

Cockpit 'transcript' published

Britain's Telegraph newspaper published what appeared to be the full transcript of communications with Flight MH370's cockpit crew up until the moment it dropped off civilian radar.

The transcript, which ended with the final words "All right, good night" - believed to have been spoken by the co-pilot - contained no fresh clues to what diverted MH370 from its intended flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

Malaysian investigators have stuck to their assumption that it was the result of a "deliberate action" by someone on board.

Three scenarios have gained particular attention: hijacking, pilot sabotage, and a sudden mid-air crisis that incapacitated the flight crew and left the plane to fly on auto-pilot for several hours until it ran out of fuel and crashed.

Finding wreckage in the remote southern Indian Ocean would undermine the hijacking theory, which many of the relatives of the 227 passengers on board continue to cling to.

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