The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will enter a new phase this week when a Chinese naval survey ship will start mapping the seabed off the Australian coast, officials said Monday.
Chinese, Australian and Malaysian authorities met in Fremantle in western Australia over the weekend to discuss the need for a seabed survey, and agreed that Chinese ship Zhu Kezhen will map the ocean floor in areas earmarked by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The ship, which is scheduled to sail Wednesday, will survey parts of the roughly 37,000 square-mile search area where depths and topography are largely unknown.
Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board. Officials believe the flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing diverted from its planned course and crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. Extensive air and seabed searches since the plane went missing have not turned up any traces of the missing aircraft.
After a U.S. Navy unmanned submarine, the Bluefin 21, detected a sound consistent with a plane's black box, the search area was confined to less than 250 square miles. However, once the Bluefin 21 continued to search a widening area, a communications problem was discovered between the transponders on the submarine and the Australian navy ship, Ocean Shield. On Sunday, the Ocean Shield arrived at the Australian west coast port of Geraldton to repair the transponders on the ship and submarine.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also made headlines over the weekend when he accused the CIA, on his blog, of hiding information regarding the missing airliner.
“Someone is hiding something. It is not fair that MAS and Malaysia should take the blame,” he wrote in a May 18 post adding that Boeing and “certain” government agencies have the ability to remotely take control of commercial airliners such as the missing Boeing 777.
“For some reason, the media will not print anything that involves Boeing or the CIA,” he said.