MH370 search: Next 48 hours crucial in underwater search, says Hishammuddin

MH370 search: Next 48 hours crucial in underwater search, says Hishammuddin
Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (foreground).

KUALA LUMPUR - The underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in a narrowed area has entered a crucial 48-hour period ending today, which could lead to a review of operations.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said: "It is at a crucial juncture as the Joint Agency Coordination Centre and all the experts have narrowed the search to what we are looking at on Saturday and Sunday.

"Whatever the outcome of the next few days, we will then need to regroup and reconsider the search operations. This could mean anything from widening the search area to re-evaluating all the data gathered so far in the search effort," Hishammuddin said at a press conference at the Royale Chulan hotel here yesterday.

The data include the calculations of British satellite firm Inmarsat, which concluded that the plane had flown along the southern corridor over the Indian Ocean.

Hishammuddin, who is Defence Minister, denied claims by certain media that the mapping of the sea bed in the search would take six weeks to two months.

"That is not true. It should be completed by next week.

"I have been informed by JACC chief Angus Houston that the autonomous underwater vehicle, codenamed Bluefin-21, is getting clear sharp images of the sea bed but no contacts of interest have been found," he said.

"As the search enters a phase which requires sonar, it is timely to look at submersible assets like submarines," Hishammuddin said.

"However, I must stress that the submarine capability for search using sonar is quite limited."

He added that the asset deployment committee had identified private companies that had the capabilities for deep water salvage and recovery work, and other national assets that could be deployed to support the operation.

"Local companies such as DEFTECH and Boustead have been tasked to discuss with their international collaborative partners like (the Swedish) SAAB and DCNS (Direction des Constructions Navales) to identify the relevant assets and instruments required for the search operation," he said.

Australian officials supervising the search said yesterday that the underwater search for the black box recorders based on "pings" possibly from the devices could be completed in five to seven days.

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