Missing MH370: Search in Indian Ocean continues despite cyclone

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Loadmasters, Sergeant Adam Roberts (left) and Flight Sergeant John Mancey, launch a 'Self Locating Data Marker Buoy' from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

SEPANG - The search for MH370 continues full-steam ahead despite a tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean that threatens to hamper the progress of ships looking for possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said some of the ships sailing to the location where two objects were spotted by satellites 2,500km south-west of Perth, Australia, would have to brave severe weather conditions and sail through the Category One Cyclone Gillian.

"Despite the difficulties, no country has said no to our requests for help," said the acting Transport Minister in praising the efforts of the multinational search teams which Malaysia was coordinating.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's website, tropical cyclones are ranked from Category One (weakest) to Category Five (strongest). A Category One tropical cyclone brings winds of 90-125kph.

Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said Cyclone Gillian, which had reportedly made landfall at Christmas Island, was in the path of some of the ships heading to the waters where the possible debris had been spotted by satellites.

The depth of the ocean where the search for possible debris is being done is between 150m and 7,000m.

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

Two merchant ships and five aircraft are already in the area while two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft are due to arrive in Perth to help in the search in the southern corridor, which stretches from Indonesia to the southern part of the Indian Ocean.

The Australian navy ship HMS Echo equipped with state-of-the-art underwater sensors is also en route from the Persian Gulf to the search area.

Asked how much the 26-country search operations had cost so far, Hishammuddin said the issue had not crossed anyone's minds.

"No one, not the Malaysian Government or our partners have talked about dollars and cents, not even a rough estimate," he said.

In the northern corridor which covers northern Thailand to Kazakhstan, Hishammuddin said China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan had reported no sighting so far of MH370.

Meanwhile, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is overseeing the search in the area, said a civilian aircraft reported seeing a number of small objects in the search area, including a wooden pallet.

However, a New Zealand military plane which was diverted to the location only found clumps of seaweed.

The agency said in a statement that searchers would keep trying to determine whether the objects were related to the missing plane.