File: AP/PTI Photo
Cyclone Halts Air Search for MH370, Mini Sub Draws Blank

Aerial search for the crashed Malaysian jet was suspended today due to a tropical cyclone over the southern Indian Ocean, as a robotic mini-submarine scouring the seabed failed to locate the plane's wreckage after nine missions.

"Planned air search activities have been suspended for today due to poor weather conditions in the search area as a result of Tropical Cyclone Jack," Perth-based Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said on the 46th day of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

"It has been determined that the current weather conditions are resulting in heavy seas and poor visibility, and would make any air search activities ineffective and potentially hazardous," it said.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Bluefin-21, a US Navy probe equipped with side-scan sonar, has searched approximately two thirds of the focused underwater search area to date.

The Bluefin has completed nine missions and no "contacts of interest" have been found, according to the JACC.

"Bluefin-21 is currently undertaking mission ten in the underwater search area," it said.

The 10 ships involved in today's search continued their hunt for the missing plane that mysteriously disappeared on March 8 with 239 people, including five Indians, on board.

The mini-submarine has focused the search on an area where four acoustic signals were detected, leading authorities to believe that the missing Boeing 777-200's black box may be located there.

Authorities said on Sunday that the underwater search for the crucial flight recorders of the crashed Malaysian jet could be completed within a week, provided the weather is favourable for the AUV.

The focused underwater search area is defined as a circle of 10km-radius around the second Towed Pinger Locator detection which occurred on April 8.

Finding the black box and the wreckage are crucial for knowing why the Beijing-bound plane veered off from its route and mysteriously vanished after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

The mystery of the missing plane has continued to baffle aviation and security authorities who have so far failed to trace the aircraft despite deploying hi-tech radar and other gadgets.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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