Cyclone Gillian casts a dark shadow over search and rescue operations

Cyclone Gillian casts a dark shadow over search and rescue operations

SEPANG - Cyclone Gillian, which has set off a cyclone warning in the Southern Corridor area has yet to hamper search and rescue operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the cyclone was currently in the area around Christmas Island, and had yet to affect the Southern Corridor search area.

"It is not in the search and rescue area yet, but may approach it," he said, adding it could hamper efforts there.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said it was currently a category one cyclone, and "was not affecting the search area yet, but could grow".

"Some vessels may have to go through the cyclone to get to the search and rescue area," he said.

Hishammuddin said that five aircraft and two merchant ships were involved in the search and rescue operations in the vicinity of the two objects identified by Australian authorities, which are approximately 2,500km southwest of Perth.

"Despite improved visual search conditions yesterday (Friday), there were no sightings of the objects of interest. Operations continue, and today (Saturday) they plan to search an area of approximately 10,500 square nautical miles," said Hishammuddin.

Hishammuddin said that the Australian authorities anticipate that six aircraft - four military and two civilian - would be visually searching the area.

"Two merchant vessels will also be present during search operations, and HMAS Success was due to reach the search area at 14:30 today," he said.

However, Hishammuddin said that conditions in the southern corridor were very challenging.

"The ocean varies between 1,150m and 7,000m in depth in the area where the possible objects were identified by the Australian authorities, and there are strong currents and rough seas," said Hishammuddin.

Christmas Island is located some 2,600km northwest of Perth.

The Indian Ocean island was put on red alert on Saturday morning and residents were told if they had not already evacuated, they must stay in their homes and keep away from doors and windows.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has warned that the category one cyclone was intensifying and destructive wind gusts of up to 125km/h were expected.

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