Relatives of passengers chat after a meeting with representatives
from the airline at Lido Hotel in Beijing.
India puts on hold search for missing plane
Port Blair, March 16, 2014
India on Sunday put on hold its search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at the request of the government in Kuala Lumpur, which wants to reassess the week-old hunt for the Boeing 777 that is suspected of being deliberately flown off course.
India had been combing two areas, one around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and a second, further west, in the Bay of Bengal. Both operations have been suspended, but may yet resume, defence officials said.
"It's more of a pause," said Commander Babu, a spokesman for the country's Eastern Naval Command.
"The Malaysian authorities are reassessing the situation. They will figure whether they need to shift the area of search."
The fate of the flight, with 239 passengers and crew aboard, has been shrouded in mystery since it vanished off Malaysia's east coast less than an hour into a March 8 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday the plane appeared to have been deliberately steered off course after someone on board shut down its communications systems.
A review of search operations involving more than a dozen countries will be held in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Indian officials said.
"The search operation is not over, we are on standby and are awaiting instructions from the Malaysians," said a senior military official in Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an archipelago west of the Malay Peninsula.
Meanwhile, a report said the southern Indian Ocean, where investigators suspect missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 may have come down, is one place where a commercial airliner can crash without a ship spotting it, a radar plotting it or even a satellite picking it up.
The empty expanse of water is one of the most remote places in the world and also one of the deepest, posing potentially enormous challenges for the international search effort now refocusing on the area, one of several possible crash sites.
Even Australia, which has island territories in the Indian Ocean and sends rescue planes to pluck stricken yachtsmen from the cold, mountainous seas in the south from time to time, has no radar coverage much beyond its Indian Ocean coast.
"In most of Western Australia and almost all of the Indian Ocean, there is almost no radar coverage," an Australian civil aviation authority source said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the record.
"If anything is more than 100 kilometres offshore, you don't see it."
The Indian Ocean, the world's third largest, has an average depth of more than 12,000 feet, or two miles. That's deeper than the Atlantic where it took two years to find wreckage on the seabed from an Air France plane that vanished in 2009 even though floating debris quickly pointed to the crash site.
So far, search operations by navies and aircraft from more than a dozen nations have failed to find even a trace of Flight MH370, which went missing a week ago after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing and diverting from its intended flight path.
The search effort has focused mainly on the South China Sea but is now switching to the Indian Ocean after investigators, having pieced together radar and satellite tracking data, began to suspect the Boeing 777-200ER had been deliberately flown hundreds or possibly thousands of miles off course.
Searchers still face a daunting array of possible last locations for the plane, including the northern end of the Indian Ocean as well as central Asia, though investigators say it is more likely to have flown to the south than through busier airspace to the north where it would likely have been detected.
With an estimated four hours fuel left when last spotted by radar off Malaysia's northwest coast, the plane could have flown a further 2,200 miles (3,500 km) or so, assuming normal cruising speed and altitude.
Officials think, based on the available data, the aircraft flew south until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea, according to a source familiar with data the US government is receiving from the investigation.
In the south, any debris from MH370 would have been widely dispersed by Indian Ocean currents in the week since it disappeared.
The southern Indian Ocean, between Indonesia and Australia, is broken up only by the Australian territories of Christmas Island, home to asylum seeker detention facilities, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands some 2,000 km (1,240 miles) northwest of Perth. The Cocos Islands have a small airport to serve the islands' combined population of just 3,000 people.
Further south, the only habitation is the handful of research stations on the scattering of tiny French-run islands including Kerguelen - a group of volcanic outcrops between Africa, Australia and Antarctica. While home to several powerful astronomical scanners and radar, there is no airport and it is seen extremely unlikely the aircraft could have made it that far. - Reuters