Investigators are preparing to widen the seabed scan for missing Malaysian Air Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean after family members frustrated by a lack of information detained airline employees sent to meet with them.
An unmanned submarine started its 14th mission today after being pulled from the water the previous day to fix a software fault that hampered the search for wreckage. The Bluefin-21 has combed 95 percent of an initial target area centered about 1,584 kilometers (984 miles) northwest of Perth, and will widen the zone if nothing is found, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement.
The inability to find wreckage of the Boeing Co. 777-200ER in the area where pings similar to those from a plane’s voice and data recorders were detected has deepened the mystery over the longest disappearance in modern passenger-aviation history. The Malaysian Airline System Bhd. flight with 239 people aboard vanished March 8 on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, after being steered off course in what Malaysian officials have called a deliberate act.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told CNN’s Richard Quest this week that he isn’t yet ready to declare the jet and its passengers lost.
“Right now I think I need to take into account the feelings of the next of kin -- and some of them have said publicly that they aren’t willing to accept it until they find hard evidence,” Najib said.
Malaysian King Abdul Halim today thanked President Barack Obama for U.S. help and “unwavering support” in the hunt for the missing plane during a speech at a banquet in Kuala Lumpur. Obama is an a four-country tour of Asia.
Tensions have been rising among the mostly Chinese families of passengers on the missing jet over incomplete or conflicting reports shared by government officials.
Frustrated relatives detained the airline’s staff in a Beijing hotel for more than 10 hours this week as they demanded a fuller account of the flight from Malaysia’s government.
The skirmish started when 10 airline employees gathered with about 200 family members on April 24 at Beijing’s Metropark Lido Hotel, where the carrier has provided updates on the search.
The employees were made to wait in the hotel ballroom while about 60 relatives went to the Malaysian Embassy in an attempt to get a government official to attend the session. They were released yesterday, according to a statement on Malaysian Air’s website.
In an earlier incident, a relative of a missing passenger attacked and kicked a Malaysian Air security supervisor at the Lido Hotel on April 22, the airline said.
Eight military aircraft and 11 ships deployed in the search today faced sporadic rain, 20-knot winds and swells higher than 2 meters, JACC said in its statement.
The submarine has focused on a 10-kilometer radius around the site where pings similar to those from flight recorders were detected on April 8. Bluefin-21 is bouncing sound waves off the ocean floor to create images of the seabed.
The recorders, known as black boxes, were designed to have a battery life of about 30 days, meaning there’s little chance of picking up further transmissions.