MH370: Bad weather foils search for possible debris

Experts warn that efforts to reach the plane may take years if objects are proven to belong to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

Experts warn that efforts to reach the plane may take years if objects are proven to belong to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

MELBOURNE - Australian officials announced Friday that unfavourable weather conditions are hampering the search for two objects spotted by satellite in the southern Indian Ocean which may belong to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

In a statement, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orion aircraft had found no trace of the two large objects spotted yesterday due to "extremely bad weather conditions" and low visibility range over the ocean.

On Thursday, two objects possibly related to the missing MH370 were sighted some 2,500 km southwest of Perth, Australia.

The Australian authority said that the search resumed early Friday with five planes from Australia, four from Indonesia, four from Japan, three from China, two each from Malaysia, India and South Korea, and one each from New Zealand, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

Speaking after arriving in Papua New Guinea on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called it the "first tangible breakthrough" in the hunt for the missing Malaysian aircraft but said that whether the objects were actually from the plane could only be confirmed on closer analysis.

He stressed that Australia is throwing all the resources it can into the search.

Experts have said that the sea depth is around 3,500 metres in the southern Indian Ocean's "Naturalist Plateu," where the two objects were detected.

Charitha Pattiaratchi, Professor of Coastal Oceanography at the University of Western Australia, told The Herald that the conditions and the amount of time needed to find the debris, which might require years in such a treacherous part of the ocean, would make it a hazardous recovery operation.

“Water temperature is about 10 to 15 degrees and at the bottom it is near freezing,” he said, noting that any recovery efforts would need to stop in April or May and restart in October or September, depending on the severity of the weather.

Another oceanography expert, American Dr. Dave Gallo, told The West Australian that recovery efforts to remove the wreckage of Air France flight 447 from the Atlantic Ocean took two years after it crashed in 2009.

He cautioned that efforts to reach the aircraft debris could take years as the area the objects were spotted in is located within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, a massive ocean current which flows from around Antarctica.

Flight MH370 went missing after losing radio contact with the Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8. The Beijing-bound flight was carrying 239 passengers including 12 flight crew from 14 different countries.

The aircraft is now believed to have turned back from its original flight path and followed a route between navigational waypoints (aviation corridors N571 and P628). N571 or waypoint Vampi is used by commercial airplanes traveling to the Middle East while P628 or waypoint Igrex is used to fly to Europe.

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