| SYDNEY/PERTH, Australia, April 20
SYDNEY/PERTH, Australia, April 20 The search for
missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 entered its
44th day on Sunday as Australian search officials said a crucial
series of sonar scans of the Indian Ocean floor could be
completed within a week.
The air, surface and underwater search is now focused on
footage taken by a U.S. Navy deep sea drone, which has narrowed
its target range to a tight 10-km (6.2-mile) circle of sea
The Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) has spent
the past week scouring the remote and largely unmapped stretch
of ocean floor some 2,000 km (1,200 miles) northwest of the
Australian city of Perth for signs of the plane, which
disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board.
The remote controlled submarine is now in its eighth deep
sea mission with no sign of wreckage so far. The drone has
searched about half its targeted area, the authorities said on
The Malaysian government has said the search is at a "very
critical juncture" and asked for prayers for its success.
Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has
also said the government may consider using more AUVs in the
After almost two months without a sign of wreckage, the
current underwater search is centred on an area where one of
four acoustic signals believed to be from the plane's black box
recorders was detected on April 8.
Weeks of daily sorties have failed to turn up any trace of
the plane, even after narrowing the search to an arc in the
southern Indian Ocean, making this the most expensive such
operation in aviation history.
Hopes for further black box signals are fast diminishing,
since the black box batteries are now two weeks past their
30-day expected life span, search officials have said.
But while the Bluefin-21's target range has narrowed, the
air and surface search continues unabated, with daily sorties a
week after Australian search coordinator retired Air Chief
Marshal Angus Houston said the air and surface component of the
search would end within three days.
On Sunday, up to 11 military aircraft and 12 ships will help
with the search, covering a total of roughly 48,507 square km
(18,729 sq miles) across two areas, the Perth-based Joint Agency
Coordination Centre said in a statement.
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)