Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister

Search of narrowed 10 km (6.2 mile) area by underwater drone will be completed over coming days, Australian officials have said

The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight is at “a very critical juncture”, with the area officials believe the wreckage could be in narrowing significantly over the next two days, Malaysia’s acting transport minister has said.

The search of a tight 10 km (6.2 mile) circle of the sea floor by a US Navy underwater drone could be completed within a week, Australian search officials said on Saturday.

The area has been determined based on underwater pings believed to be from the plane's black box recorders, meaning if analysis has been correct and the signal’s were coming from the boxes, remnants from the doomed flight should be located.

The almost two month long search for the plane after it disappeared from radars on 8 March has so far brought no sign of wreckage, and officials have little answer as to what happened in the final hours of the flight.

“Provided the weather is favourable for launch and recovery of the AUV and we have a good run with the serviceability of the AUV, we should complete the search of the focused underwater area in five to seven days,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre told Reuters in an email.

Officials did not indicate whether they were confident that this search area would yield any new information about the flight, nor did they state what steps they would take in the event that the underwater search were to prove fruitless.

“It is important to focus on today and tomorrow. Narrowing of the search area today and tomorrow is at a very critical juncture,” Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a media conference in Kuala Lumpur, asking for people to pray for success.

Malaysia was asking oil companies and others in the commercial sector to provide assets that might help in the search, Mr Hishammuddin added, after earlier saying more AUVs might be used.

After almost two weeks without picking up any acoustic signals, and long past the black box battery's 30-day life expectancy, authorities are increasingly reliant on the unmanned Bluefin-21 drone, which on Saturday was expected to have dived to unprecedented depths that could risk the equipment.

Because visual searches of the ocean surface have yielded no concrete evidence, the drone, with its ability to search deep beneath the ocean surface with “side scan” sonar, has become the focal point of the search 1,200 miles northwest of the Australian city of Perth.

But hopes that it might soon guide searchers to wreckage are dwindling with no sign of the plane after six deployments spanning 83 square miles. Footage from the drone's sixth mission was still being analysed, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said on Saturday.

Additional reporting from Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral