Missing Malaysia flight MH370: Underwater scanning resumes as search area is extended – but authorities remain ‘absolutely convinced’ they are looking in the right place

Officials join families in condemning book of speculation about disappearance of jet

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The Independent Online

The underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 resumed this morning after a week of repairs to the US Navy’s submersible vehicle – and the man leading the hunt has said he remains “absolutely convinced” they are looking in the right place.

Appearing on ABC News 24, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said that with a review of the satellite data well underway in Canberra he was sure that the analysis carried out by the British firm Inmarsat had been accurate.

It has now been 74 days since the Boeing 777 disappeared with 239 people on board while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and Mr Houston admitted that they were stilling assessing what they knew about signals emitted by the plane to ensure “that nothing has been overlooked and that everything has been considered”.

Following Mr Houston’s interview the Joint Agency Coordination Centre for the search, based in Perth, issued a statement saying that the Australian Navy’s Ocean Shield vessel had arrived back in the search area.

“The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Bluefin-21, was deployed from the vessel around 2am this morning. It remains underwater on its search mission,” the centre said.

Time is running out for Bluefin-21 to find any trace of the missing aircraft – by 28 May it is scheduled to have covered every strip of the search area defined when “pings” from a plane’s flight recorder were thought to be heard coming from the ocean floor.

By 31 May, Bluefin-21 will have arrived back at base on Australia’s west coast, quite possibly having failed in its mission.

It will be replaced in the search by the Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen, which departed port at Fremantle yesterday. Officials said the ship would carry out a much broader mapping of the ocean’s floor in preparation for a commercially-contracted deep sea search.

Meanwhile, Mr Houston added his own support to the relatives of those on board MH370 in condemning the first book released on the subject of the plane’s disappearance.

Entitled Flight MH370: The Mystery and written by the Anglo-American author Nigel Cawthorne, it supports one theory that suggests the plane was shot down in an international military training exercise gone wrong.

Mr Houston said: “The families have gone through an incredibly traumatic time over the last two-and-a-half months. To be putting books out at this stage is very premature.

He added: “There's still a long way to go with the search, and of course, if we eventually find the aircraft, the investigation into what actually happened.”