Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Submarine returns to depths after second mission again stopped short

The underwater search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 continued to falter today as submersible vehicle Bluefin 21 returned to the surface empty-handed.

The sub is being used to scour the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean for wreckage, but its second mission was again halted early - this time due to a technical fault.

Search organisers said there was no sign of the plane in any of the data collected today, and Bluefin 21 has now been redeployed once more.

The toll of the slow and frustrating process showed today in an angry walk-out staged by the relatives of some of the more than 150 Chinese passengers on board MH370 when it went down.

More than 100 family-members were due to be updated via a conference call with senior Malaysian officials at a Beijing hotel where Malaysia Airlines has provided them with accommodation.

Today's search produced no more positive results - and more frustration for Chinese relatives
But they stood and left the room shortly before the call with Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, was set to begin.

The families have repeatedly expressed anger at the perceived lack of contact with officials and over the time it takes to receive responses to their questions.

"These video conference meetings often don't work, the sound stops and it's constantly disrupted. Is that how we are going to communicate?" said Jiang Hui, one of the family members, after the walkout. "Do they need to waste our time in such a way?"

He said the relatives have requested meetings with the manufacturers of the lost Boeing 777, and an apology from the Malaysian government over their handling of the incident - all of which have been refused.

The jet itself disappeared on 8 March along with its 239 passengers and crew while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing. Radar and satellite data show it flew far off-course for an unknown reason and would have run out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean west of Australia.

The Bluefin 21's underwater ventures are now the only really hope recovery teams have of finding out what happened to the plane, after search organiser Angus Houston said the chances of any success from visual, surface reconnaissance were "greatly diminished".

The unmanned sub, belonging to the US Navy, cut short its first mission on Monday because it exceeded its maximum operating depth of 4,500 metres (15,000 feet). Searchers moved it away from the deepest waters before redeployment.

In addition to finding the plane itself, investigators want to recover the black boxes in hopes the cockpit voice and flight data recorders contain answers to why the plane lost communications and flew so far off-course before disappearing.

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