The search for missing flight MH370 is at a "very critical juncture", Malaysia's acting transport minister said yesterday as authorities decide whether to reassess a challenging search of the Indian Ocean seabed that has so far found nothing.
"The search for today and tomorrow is at a very critical juncture. So I appeal for everybody around the world to pray and pray hard that we find something to work on," Hishammuddin Hussein said.
Malaysia is in discussion with private companies on the possible use of more deep-sea vessels if the mini-submarine currently searching the ocean floor fails to make a breakthrough.
The Beijing-bound Boeing 777 vanished on March 8 carrying 227 passengers, mostly from China, and 12 crew. It is believed to have crashed off Western Australia, though no trace of it has been found.
The Australian-led search is relying on a single US Navy submersible sonar scanning device to scour the seabed at depths of around 4,500 metres or more.
The search, focused on a tight 10 kilometre circle of the sea floor, could be completed within a week, search officials said.
"Provided the weather is favourable for launch and recovery of the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and we have a good run with the serviceability of the AUV, we should complete the search of the focused underwater area in five to seven days," the Australian Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre said.
Technical hitches, including the fact that the torpedo-shaped Bluefin-21 is operating at the extent of its depth limit, have made for a slow operation.
Launched from an Australian naval vessel, the device has so far made six deep-sea scanning runs, but has detected nothing.
"We have pursued every possible lead presented to us at this stage, and with every passing day the search has become more difficult," Hishammuddin said.
Authorities have indicated deeper-diving devices may have to be deployed.
Additional reporting by Reuters