SYDNEY/PERTH: The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is likely to drag on for years, a senior U.S. defence official said on Friday, as an underwater search for any trace of the plane’s wreckage off west Australia appeared to have failed.
The official, who declined to be identified because he is not authorised to comment on the search effort, said two weeks of scouring the Indian Ocean floor with a U.S. Navy submersible drone had turned up no wreckage.
He said the search for the jetliner, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, would now enter a much harder phase of scouring broader areas of the ocean near where the plane is believed to have crashed.
“We went all in on this small area and didn’t find anything. Now you’ve got to go back to the big area,” the official told Reuters.
“And now you’re talking years.”
The undersea drone Bluefin-21 is expected on Friday to finish what may be the last of its 16-hour trips to depths of more than 4.5km (2.8 miles), searching a 10 square km (6.2 square mile) patch of seabed about 3,200 km (2,000 miles) northwest of the Australian city of Perth.
The U.S. official said Malaysia would now have to decide how to proceed, including whether to bring in more underwater drones, even with the understanding that the search could continue for years without a refined search area.
Malaysian Airlines staff detained by angry relatives in China
Angry relatives of people missing on Malaysian Airline flight MH370 held some members of the carrier’s staff for more than 10 hours in a hotel in Beijing, the airline said on Friday.
The jetliner vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Many of the passengers were from China and their relatives have grown increasingly frustrated with the failure of a multi-national search to find any trace of the plane.
More than 200 family members held 10 Malaysian Airline staff after a briefing at a Beijing hotel, only releasing them early on Friday, the airline said.
“Malaysia Airlines confirms that its staff was held at the Lido Hotel ballroom in Beijing by the family members of MH370 as the families expressed dissatisfaction in obtaining details of the missing aircraft,” the airline said.
In another incident, a Chinese family member attacked a Malaysian Airline’s security supervisor on duty at same hotel on Tuesday, the airline said.
The member of staff sustained a light injury and the airline had filed a police report, it added.
The search for missing airliner is likely to drag on for years, a senior U.S. defence official said earlier on Friday, as an underwater search for any trace of the plane’s wreckage off west Australia appeared to have failed.