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Climbers reconsider trek after deadly Mt Everest avalanche

Written By iyoet ganteng on Sabtu, 19 April 2014 | 23.18

Updated April 20, 2014 00:47:14

Climbers are reconsidering whether they will continue their treks after an avalanche on Mount Everest killed at least 13 people.

Sherpa climbers aided by helicopters have resumed the search for up to four guides who are still missing after an ice avalanche swept the lower slopes in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest mountain.

Some climbers declared a four-day halt to efforts to scale Mount Everest and others decided to abandon their mission up the 8,848-metre summit. Others said they would go ahead after talking to their Nepali guides.

"I sat and counted 13 helicopter lifts - 12 were dead bodies flying overhead suspended by a long line from a helicopter," Tim Rippel of Peak Freaks Expeditions wrote in a blog.

"Everyone is shaken here at Base Camp. Some climbers are packing up and calling it quits, they want nothing to do with this. Reality has set in."

The ice avalanche struck a perilous passage called the Khumbu Icefall, which is riddled with crevasses and piled with seracs - massive ice boulders or columns that can break free without warning.

Some climbers are packing up and calling it quits, they want nothing to do with this. Reality has set in

Tim Rippel

Although relatively low on the mountain, climbers say it is one of the most dangerous points on Mount Everest.

There are, however, no safer paths along the famous South Col route first scaled by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Experienced Australian mountaineer Patrick Hollingworth says the terrain is very unpredictable and there would have been no escaping an ice fall.

"You really don't have any control over your environment, it's essentially glacier, it drops down in elevation of about 800 vertical metres and so it's just a tumbled ice field," he said.

"You have to weave your way up through that ice field with huge blocks of ice they call them ceracs, some of them are three, four, five storeys high and they have a tendency to topple over without any notice."

Mr Hollingworth climbed the world's highest mountain in 2010 and says he was devastated to hear one of his Nepalese friends was among the dead.

He says his friend had reached the summit of the world's highest mountain seven times.

"He was one of the best, a very, very competent high altitude mountaineer, a very caring humble man, a father of six and so it's pretty devastating," he said.

Sherpas killed were en route to Camp 1

The Sherpas caught in the ice slide were ferrying equipment from Base Camp to Camp 1 - one of four waypoints that lie beneath Everest's South Face en route to the final climb to the peak.

Around 100 climbers and guides had already moved beyond the Khumbu Icefall to prepare their attempts on the summit. They are safe, but a new path will have to be made to make it possible to continue the expeditions.

Now we are concentrating on the rescue. Once that is over we will hold a meeting and decide what to do next for the climbing.

Hiker Bhim Raj Paudel

Mr Rippel's Sherpas had lucky escapes - two had returned to base camp five minutes before the avalanche hit, while two were briefly trapped above the avalanche but managed to make their way down, he wrote.

The Himalayan Guides, a Nepali hiking group, said six of its Sherpas had gone ahead of climbers they were accompanying in order to fix ropes and crack snow and ice to carve out a route, when they were caught in the avalanche and died.

"Now we are concentrating on the rescue. Once that is over we will hold a meeting and decide what to do next for the climbing," Bhim Raj Paudel, a member of the group, told Reuters.

His group is providing local logistics for three expeditions on Mount Everest and four teams to Lhotse and Nuptse peaks in the same region.

Lakpa Sherpa of the Himalayan Rescue Association told Reuters from the tented base camp near the incident site that a ground search party would begin climbing in clear weather on Saturday morning (local time).

"We have two helicopters stand by in the area and will start looking for those who are still missing. Many of them have already been rescued," Nepali Army spokesman Brigadier General Jagdish Chandra Pokharel said.

Nepal announces payments to victims family

It was first major avalanche of this year's climbing season on Everest, which has been scaled by more than 4,000 climbers.

Some 250 climbers have died on the mountain, which is on the border between Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet and can be climbed from both sides.

Expedition leaders reported that there was anger among some guides after the government announced immediate payments of $400 to the victims' families to cover funeral costs. Insurance cover typically amounts to $5,000.

"I hope the Ministry of Tourism will take care of their families," Alan Arnette, a climber and motivational speaker, wrote in an updated blog post from Base Camp.

"I know the expedition companies will provide support. But in an event of such magnitude, a reaction of similar order is in order by the Nepal government."

A rising number of tourists has raised concerns about safety and environmental damage, although Nepal still plans next year to cut fees for those wishing to do the trek.

The government has issued permits to 334 foreign climbers this season, up from 328 for the whole of last year.

An equal number of guides also climb to help the foreign mountaineers.

"The atmosphere at Base Camp is now of shock and of grieving," Scottish filmmaker Ed Wardle told Britain's Channel 4 News on Friday night, adding that "many of the expeditions here will pack up and go home".

"For this number of people to die at the very beginning of the season is completely unacceptable," he said.

"We came here looking for adventure, to celebrate Everest, but for something like this to happen makes the whole thing seem pointless."

Reuters

Topics: avalanche, disasters-and-accidents, nepal, asia

First posted April 19, 2014 17:13:11


23.18 | 0 komentar | Read More

Huge crowds welcome Royals in Brisbane

Updated April 20, 2014 00:51:32

Thousands of people welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Brisbane on day four of their first Australian tour.

Prince William and wife Catherine arrived in Brisbane on Saturday after earlier being welcomed to Queensland by an honour guard at the Amberley Air Force base.

The Royals took a public stroll down Grey and Russell streets towards South Bank, where adoring fans had been lining up all day, after a reception at the nearby Brisbane Convention Centre.

Royal visit itinerary - Australia

  • April 16 - Sydney, NSW - Opera House reception
  • April 17 - Blue Mountains, NSW - visiting bushfire-affected areas
  • April 18 - Sydney, NSW
  • April 19 - Brisbane, Qld - RAAF base visit
  • April 20 - Sydney, NSW - Easter Sunday church service
  • April 21 - Canberra, ACT
  • April 22 - Uluru, NT
  • April 23 - Adelaide, SA - Meet young Australians at Northern Sound System
  • April 24 - Canberra, ACT - Reception at Parliament House
  • April 25 - Canberra, ACT - Anzac Day march and service at War Memorial

The first of Brisbane's royal watchers arrived in South Bank as early as 5:00am to secure a prime position.

By the time Prince William and Catherine stepped out of the reception, an estimated 10,000 people were gathered to greet them.

They made their way down the street slowly, shaking hands, talking and receiving gifts of flowers and cards.

"I met Kate. She looked very nice and had a white and blue dress on," one Brisbane royal watcher said.

"I caught the back of Will's head but that's about all I saw. There were too many people," another person said.

Helen Jackson has previously seen the Queen Mother, the Queen, and princes Charles and William, but says the novelty has not worn off.

"If you saw the memorabilia I've got, especially of Will's mother, you'd die," she said.

The crowd erupted into applause when the Royals emerged from the convention centre 45 minutes later than expected.

But the hours in the sun at a temperature of 28 degrees Celsius proved too much for some people who suffered heat stroke and were led away by paramedics.

Fans were also hoping to catch a glimpse of Prince George, but the young Royal has spent much of the Australian tour out of the public gaze.

Avid royal-watcher Gary Bartholomew says the Duke and Duchess have been hugely successful on their tour so far.

"These two young Royals are as good if not better than Charles and Diana and the crowds are as tumultuous as [those for] Charles and Diana, as I can remember it," he said.

"They are modern Royals. For some reason they can handle the dignity of the occasion, then they can also deal with crowds and individual people.

"They just do it in a much more modern way."

Air Force welcome Royal couple at Annerley

More than 100 servicemen and women and Australian Defence Force Chief General David Hurley welcomed the Royal couple on Saturday morning, performing a ceremony on the tarmac at Amberley Air Force base, as four of the base fighter jets flew overhead.

The couple inspected the honour guard before meeting Premier Campbell Newman, Defence Minister David Johnston and Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale.

They were then shown an RAAF F/A-18 Super Hornet, and tried the base flight simulator.

The Duke and Duchess also planted a tree in the base memorial garden and met veterans and families of service personnel killed in recent conflicts.

The visit's host, Air Commodore Tim Innes, says months of planning and practice went into the ceremony, and people felt honoured to be involved.

"The thing that has really impressed me is the enthusiasm and the buzz of the people around the base," he said.

The Duke and Duchess returned to Sydney before making a surprise appearance at Sydney Football Stadium to watch the NSW Waratahs trounce the South Africa Bulls.

Royals spent Good Friday at Easter Show, Manly Beach

On Friday, William and Kate took in the Royal Easter Show, visited a children's hospice and also enjoyed a stroll along Manly Beach.

At the Easter show the Royal couple were shown through a new pavilion designed to showcase arts and craft exhibitions, and spoke to prize-winning exhibitors from the popular fruit and vegetable displays.

The Prince was even given a few tips on sheep shearing.

Caroline Flynn from Como in Sydney's south was among the crowd lining the barriers to catch a glimpse of the couple.

"I just adore Kate, so I'm coming out to see her and William, and maybe not baby George today, but I've given up the horses for this so good choice today," she said.

Share your photos of your encounters with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their visit to Australia with us via our Upload page or on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #abcroyals.

Topics: royal-and-imperial-matters, human-interest, brisbane-4000, qld, australia, amberley-4306

First posted April 19, 2014 07:02:53


23.18 | 0 komentar | Read More

MH370 search at 'critical juncture' as drone mission continues

Updated April 19, 2014 19:51:17

  • Search area map for April 19, 2014 Photo: Map from AMSA shows the planned search area for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on April 19, 2014. (Supplied: AMSA)
  • AMSA search map for April 16, 2014. Photo: Map from AMSA showing the planned search area for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on April 16, 2014. (Supplied: AMSA)
  • Map from AMSA showing the revised search areas for MH370 Photo: Map from AMSA showing the planned search areas and Sonobuoy search areas for flight MH370 on April 12, 2014. (AMSA)
  • AMSA map shows planned search area for MH370 Photo: An AMSA map shows the planned search area for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on April 11, 2014. (AMSA)
  • MH370 search Photo: Brent Collier, a pilot in a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion, helps with the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean on April 11, 2014. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
  • MH370 search Photo: An AMSA map released on April 9, 2014 shows where the Ocean Shield detected pingers during the search for Malaysia Airline flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. (AMSA)
  • The towed pinger locator is deployed off the deck of Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield. Photo: Phoenix Internaional personnel, Mike Unzicker and Chris Minor, deploy the towed pinger locator off the deck of Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the first search for the missing flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, April 5, 2014. (ADF: Leut Kelly Lunt)
  • Diver looks for MH370 debris Photo: A navy diver scours the water for debris from Malaysia Airline flight MH370 as he is towed behind the Ocean Shield's quick response boat in the southern Indian Ocean on April 7, 2014. (ADF)
  • Australians place messages on MH370 tribute wall Photo: Australians place messages on a tribute wall for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur on March 30, 2014. (ABC News: Samantha Hawley)
  • HMAS Success conducts patrols in search for MH370 Photo: A large clump of seaweed passes down the port side of the HMAS Success as it conducts patrols throughout several locations within the search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean on March 28, 2014. (AAP: Supplied by the Department of Defence, ABIS Julianne Cropley)
  • Malaysia Airlines search continues Photo: A supplied image obtained Friday, March 28, 2014. Executive Officer of HMAS SUCCESS Lieutenant Commander Chris Straughan stands watch on the bridge at sunrise as the ship continues its mission to locate evidence of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. (AAP: Department of Defence, ABIS, Julianne Cropley)
  • RAAF plane during MH370 search mission Photo: RAAF Flight Lieutenant Russell Adams looks out from the cockpit of a AP-3C Orion during a search mission for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean on March 26, 2014. (AFP: Paul Kane)
  • RAAF crew on board Orion in search for missing MH370 Photo: Flight Lieutenant Neville (Smokey) Dawson and Flight Officer Brittany Sharpe Pearce on board a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion which is searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean on March 21, 2014. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
  • Grieving Chinese relatives of passengers on missing flight MH370 try to remove a police barricade. Photo: Grieving Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 try to remove a police barricade blocking journalists as they gather to protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. (AFP: Mark Ralston)
  • Graffiti artist paints mural in tribute to MH370 passengers Photo: A graffiti artist paints a mural in tribute to the passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on a wall in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, 2014. (AFP: Mohd Rasfan)
  • Malaysian embassy MH370 protest in Beijing Photo: Family members of passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. (Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon)
  • MH370 passenger's relative Photo: A family member of a passenger aboard the Malaysia Airline flight MH370 reacts after hearing news the plane had almost certainly crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, March 25, 2014. (Reuters: Jason Lee)
  • Malaysia's Star newspaper Photo: The front page of Malaysia's Star newspaper pays respects to the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 25, 2014. (ABC News)
  • Location of potential new objects in MH370 search Photo: A map showing the location of potential new objects spotted by satellite on March 23 in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The objects were spotted by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency. (Malaysian Transport Ministry)
  • Shanghai Daily Photo: The front page of China's Shanghai Daily newspaper reports the news that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has almost certainly crashed, March 25, 2014. (ABC News)
  • Relatives of passengers leave a hall in Beijing after hearing news that flight MH370 had almost certainly crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, March 25, 2014.jpg Photo: Relatives of passengers leave a hall in Beijing after hearing news that flight MH370 had almost certainly crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, March 25, 2014. (AFP: Goh Chai Hin)
  • Relatives of the passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 make a statement. Photo: Representatives of the relatives of the passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 make a statement in Beijing on March 25, 2014, after being told the news that the plane plunged into the Indian Ocean. (AFP: Goh Chai Hin)
  • Families of MH370 passengers Photo: A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries after hearing the news that the plane plunged into Indian Ocean at a hotel in Beijing. March 24, 2014. (AFP: Goh Chai Hin)
  • Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak prepares to deliver a statement on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 Photo: Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak (L) prepares to deliver his statement on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein joins him onstage at the Putra World Trade Center in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, 2014. Mr Najib said the Malaysia Airlines jet came down in the southern Indian Ocean. (AFP: Mohd Rasfan)
  • A flare marks the spot where an RAAF Orion spotted some debris in the search for MH370 in the Indian Ocean Photo: A TV still of a flare marking the spot where an RAAF Orion spotted some debris in the search for MH370 in the Indian Ocean on March 24, 2014. Prime Minister Tony Abbott says two new "objects" were found. (Al Jazeera)
  • HMAS Success Photo: HMAS Success sweeps the search area in the southern Indian Ocean for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 22, 2014. (ADF: Justin Brown)
  • HMAS Success searches for missing Malaysia Airlines plane Photo: Planes and ships, including the Navy's HMAS Success, are searching for the missing plane in remote seas off Perth. (AFP: Australian Defence/Julianne Cropley )
  • Royal Air Force officers drop data marker buoy into southern Indian Ocean Photo: Royal Australian Air Force officers insert two Self-Locating Data Marker Buoys into the southern Indian Ocean on March 20, 2014.  (ADF: Leading Seaman Justin Brown)
  • Flight MH370 search Photo: RAAF flight engineer Neil Scott-Jackson works onboard an AP-3C Orion during the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean on March 22, 2014. (ADF: Justin Brown)
  • RAAF search for flight MH370 Photo: RAAF pilot, flight lieutenant Russell Adams from 10 Squadron, flies an AP-3C Orion over the Indian Ocean. (ADF: Hamish Paterson)
  • Family members of MH370 passengers Photo: Family members of passengers missing on MH370 have called on authorities to "give us back our families". (Reuters: Damir Sagolj)
  • Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 relatives Photo: Chinese relatives of passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 embrace while they await information at the Lido Hotel in Beijing on March 20, 2014. (Getty Images: Feng Li)
  • Chinese relatives of passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 wait for news. Photo: Chinese relatives of passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 wait for news at a hotel in Beijing on March 17, 2014. (AFP: Mark Ralston)
  • Fariq Abdul Hamid, co-pilot on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 Photo: Fariq Abdul Hamid was the co-pilot on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
  • Messages of support for missing Malaysia Airlines flight Photo: A man leaves a message of support and hope for passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 15, 2014. (Reuters: Damir Sagolj )
  • Pilot searches for missing Malaysia Airlines plane Photo: A pilot on board a Vietnamese Air Force Russian-made AN-27 uses a map to help search Vietnam's southern sea for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 14, 2014. (AFP: Hoang Dinh Nam)
  • Indonesian Air Force military search for missing plane Photo: Indonesian Air Force pilot aboard an Indonesian Air Force military surveillance aircraft over the Malacca Strait searches for the missing plane on March 13, 2014. (AFP: Indonesian Air Force)
  • MH370 sand sculpture Photo: A sand sculpture in support of the missing Malaysian airliner MH370, by artist Sudersan Pattnaik, sits on a beach at Puri Beach in India on March 12, 2014. (AFP)
  • Photo showing what was originally thought to be possible debris from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Photo: Photo showing what was originally thought to be possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 floating in the South China Sea, March 12, 2014. Several satellite photos were released on the website of a Chinese state oceanic agency, but were released "by mistake and did not show any debris". (www.sastind.gov.cn/)
  • Photo showing what was originally thought to be possible debris from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Photo: Photo showing what was originally thought to be possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 floating in the South China Sea, March 12, 2014. Several satellite photos were released on the website of a Chinese state oceanic agency, but were released "by mistake and did not show any debris". (www.sastind.gov.cn/)
  • Missing Malaysian plane Photo: A Vietnamese officer stands next to a screen showing a flight route during a press conference about the search for a missing Malaysian airliner, at Phu Quoc Airport. (Reuters)
  • MH370 search Photo: An RAAF crew member in an AP-3C Orion patrol plane looks out a window and scans the surface of the sea west of Peninsula Malaysia during the search for Malysian Airlines flight MH370 on March 11, 2014. (ADF: Cameron Jamieson)
  • Search crews hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines plane Photo: A Vietnamese official checks a map during a search flight off Vietnam's coast on March 11, 2014 as part of continued efforts aimed at finding traces of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370. (AFP: Hoang Dinh Nam)
  • Malaysian police photo handout of suspected holders of stolen passports Photo: Malaysian police photographs showing 19-year-old Iranian Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad (L) and an unidentified man (R), who both boarded missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight using stolen European passports. The images were displayed to the media on March 11, 2014 (AFP: Malaysian Police)
  • Map showing search zone in hunt for missing plane Photo: Malaysian officials stand in front of a map showing the extended search area for missing flight MH370, March 10, 2013. (How Foo Yeen/Getty Images)
  • Personnel from the Republic of Singapore Air Force scan the seas north-east of Kota Baru, Malaysia. Photo: Personnel from the Republic of Singapore Air Force scan the seas north-east of Kota Baru, Malaysia, for any signs of the missing plane. (AFP: The Strait Times/Desmond Lim)
  • Officer looks out of helicopter during search mission Photo: An officer looks out of a helicopter during a mission to find the missing plane. (Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha)
  • Graphic: Malaysia Airlines plane missing Photo: Graphic of the flight path for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that last had contact with air traffic controllers on March 8, 2014. (ABC News)
  • Vietnamese officers looks for missing Malaysia Airlines jet Photo: A Vietnamese Air Force officer looks out a window of a Soviet-made AN-26 during the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane over seas south off Vietnam. (AFP: Hoang Dinh Nam)
  • Journalists in a crowded conference room at a Beijing hotel Photo: Journalists wait for a news conference regarding the missing Malaysian Airlines flight at a hotel in Beijing.  (Reuters: Jason Lee)
  • Malaysia Airlines Group chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya addresses the media Photo: Malaysia Airlines Group chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya addresses the media near Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AFP: Manan Vatsyayana)
  • Man takes photos of flight information board at Beijing Capital International Airport Photo: A man takes pictures of a flight information board displaying the scheduled time of arrival of flight MH370 at the Beijing Capital International Airport. (Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon)
  • A woman cries as she talks on her mobile phone at Beijing Capital International Airport Photo: A woman believed to be the relative of a passenger onboard flight MH370 cries as she talks on her mobile phone at the Beijing Capital International Airport. (Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon)
  • Relatives of Malaysia Airlines passenger at Beijing airport Photo: A relative (C) of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 covers her face at Beijing Capital International Airport. (Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon)
  • RAAF P-3C Orion surveillance plane on the tarmac Photo: The second RAAF P-3C Orion on the tarmac in Darwin ready to depart for Malaysia to join the search party on March 10, 2014. (ABC News: Marty McCarthy)
  • Paul Weeks was on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Photo: New Zealand father-of-two, Paul Weeks, who was on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (ABC TV)
  • Queenslanders Rodney and Mary Burrows Photo: Rodney and Mary Burrows were among the six Australians on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. (Queensland Police Service)
  • Catherine and Robert Lawton Photo: Queenslanders Catherine and Robert Lawton, pictured on holidays. (Facebook)
Gallery: The search for MH370

The current underwater search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, focused on a tight 10-kilometre circle of the sea floor, could be completed within a week, Australian search officials say.

Malaysia said the search was at a "very critical juncture" and asked for prayers for its success.

A United States Navy deep-sea autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is scouring a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean floor for signs of the plane, which disappeared from radars on March 8 with 239 people on board, including six Australians.

After almost two months without a sign of wreckage, the current underwater search has been narrowed to a small area around the location in which one of four acoustic signals - believed to be from the plane's black box recorders - was detected on April 8.

"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 (JACC) told Reuters news agency.

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 the underwater search were to prove fruitless.

More than two dozen countries have been involved in the hunt for the Boeing 777 which disappeared from radar shortly into a Kuala Lumpur to Beijing flight in what officials believe was a deliberate act.

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 search operation in aviation history.

"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 $4 million US Bluefin-21 drone, which on Saturday was expected to have dived to unprecedented depths.

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 2,000 kilometres north-west of Perth.

The search has so far centred on a city-sized area where a series of "pings" led authorities to believe the plane's black box may be located. The current refined search area is based on one such transmission.

After the drone's searches were hampered by an automatic safety mechanism which returns it to the surface when it exceeds a depth of 4.5 kilometres, authorities have adjusted the mechanism and have sent it as deep as 4,695 metres, a record for the machine.

But hopes that it might soon guide searchers to wreckage are dwindling with no sign of the plane after six deployments spanning 133 square kilometres.

Footage from the drone's sixth mission was still being analysed, the JACC said.

On Monday, the search coordinator, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said the air and surface search for debris would likely end by mid-week as the operation shifted its focus to the ocean floor.

But the air and surface searches have continued daily, and on Saturday the JACC said up to 11 military aircraft and 12 ships would help with the Saturday's search covering about 50,200 square kilometres across three areas.

"The search will always continue," Mr Hishammuddin said. "It's just a matter of approach".

Reuters

Topics: air-and-space, accidents, disasters-and-accidents, australia, malaysia

First posted April 19, 2014 19:10:48


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