World / Highlights

Time, but not hope, is quickly running out

By Karl Wilson (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-01 07:18

Will this week produce the breakthrough the world has been waiting for in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370?

For the men and women from the many countries who have been scouring vast stretches of the Indian Ocean from the air, and for those at sea, they live in hope.

Hope that the next piece of debris hauled from the ocean belongs to the Boeing 777 that disappeared on March 9, on what was to be a six-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with the loss of all 239 passengers - most of whom were from China - and crew.

The search has not been easy, and the search area has shifted. Debris has been picked up but has been identified as garbage.

However, time is running out.

By the end of this week, the battery for the beacon that emits a signal from the flight voice and data recorders, or "black boxes", will fade out.

At dusk on Monday, the Australian naval supply ship Ocean Shield was testing US high-tech sonar equipment off the West Australian coast before heading to the search area 1,850 km farther west.

Ocean Shield is not expected to reach the search area until Wednesday or Thursday.

Time, but not hope, is quickly running out

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is in Perth rallying support for this weekend's Senate election, stopped by the Pearce Royal Australian Air Force Base just north of Perth where aircraft from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea have been operating for over a week in the search for debris.

The larger Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft and the US navy's P8 Poseidon operate from Perth International Airport.

"I just wanted to say thank you to all countries involved in the search," Abbott said.

"It has been an extraordinary effort tremendous international cooperation.

"It shows nations of this region can come together for the benefit of humanity and work to solve this mystery."

Abbott said he was not setting a time limit on the search.

"We owe it to the families of those on board, we owe it to the countries whose nationals were on board, and we owe it to the traveling public to do all that we can reasonably do to get to the bottom of this mystery."

In Perth, a new office to be called the Joint Agency Coordination Center is being established to coordinate communications, especially with the families of those who were on board.

It is not taking over the role of coordinating the search, which is being conducted by the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority on the other side of the country in Canberra.

Headed by former Defense Force chief Air Vice-Marshal Angus Houston, the office should be up and running by the middle of the week.

Houston has said that one of the primary roles of the center will be to keep the families of lost loved ones on board MH370 fully informed about the search.

It's a search that the prime minister says is being stepped up.

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