MH370 search: Officials 'optimistic' as new phase begins in Indian Ocean

The search was delayed for months as the seabed was mapped

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The Independent Online

The next phase of the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has started in the Indian Ocean.

Australian teams are using sonar, video cameras and sensors to scour a remote stretch of the ocean 1,100 miles west of the Australian coastline for any wreckage.

No trace of the Boeing 777 has been found since it disappeared on 8 March on its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

Planes, ships and helicopters from around the world were involved in the initial search but the scale of efforts shrunk after a series of false alarms about the plane’s missing black boxes and debris.

The latest search area is where investigators believe the aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed, based on satellite transmissions from MH370.

A soldier looking out for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane during earlier searches

Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), said the agency was “cautiously optimistic”.

“Cautious because of all the technical and other challenges we've got, but optimistic because we're confident in the analysis," he added.

"But it's just a very big area that we're looking at."

Two ships have been surveying the seabed since May using sonar devices that determine the shape and hardness of the terrain below, allowing officials to create three-dimensional maps of the seabed.

They are considered crucial to the search effort because the seafloor is riddled with canyons, mountains and volcanoes, that could prove disastrous to the delicate search equipment being towed just 330 feet (100 metres) above it.

3D map of the Indian Ocean created for the next stage of the MH370 search effort

A ship called the GO Phoenix, provided by Malaysia's government is conducting the search and two other Dutch vessels, the Equator and Discovery, are expected to join the hunt later this month.

There will be between 25 and 35 people on each ship and crews will likely work around the clock.

They can stay at the search site for up to 30 days before they must head back to shore to refuel and resupply.

Malaysia and Australia are each contributing around £40 million to fund the search.

Mr Dolan said the ATSB and its partners think the victims’ families “deserve an answer” to the ongoing mystery.

“We will give it every possible effort and we think our efforts will be really good — but there's no guarantee of success,” he added.

Irene Burrows, whose son Rodney Burrows was on MH370 with his wife, Mary, believes the plane will be found.

“We're in limbo,” she said. “It will be good to know where it is — I think that's what is important to all the family.”

Additional reporting by AP