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Malaysia to deploy underwater vehicles in MH370 search: Official

AFP , Thursday 15 May 2014
A couple are silhouetted as they watch a Malaysia Airlines plane on the tarmac from the viewing gallery at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, April 10, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Malaysia is considering deploying underwater vehicles as authorities prepare for a long-term search effort for missing flight MH370, an official said Thursday.

Deputy defence minister Abdul Rahim Bakri said national oil company Petronas would provide two autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to help search for the Malaysia Airline Boeing 777-200, which disappeared without a trace.

"Up to now Petronas has given full commitment, dedicating at least two AUVs to help the search," he said in a press conference.

As the so-far futile search continues, he said Petronas was also mulling providing underwater sonar equipment and remotely operated vehicles.

Abdul Rahim said Malaysia's oil and gas firm Sapura Kencana was offering a multibeam echo-sounder which was being considered by the government.

Meanwhile, a resumption of the search was hindered Wednesday by technical troubles, with a mini-sub lasting only two hours in the water before it had to be raised.

Australian vessel Ocean Shield, carrying the US Navy Bluefin-21 submersible, arrived back in the southern Indian Ocean search zone Tuesday following a port visit to Perth after the air and sea hunt was scaled back.

The plan was for it to resume scouring the seabed where transmissions believed to have come from the plane's black box flight recorders were heard last month.

MH370 vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board after mysteriously diverting from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route.

It is believed to have crashed into the sea far off Australia's west coast.

Air and sea searches over vast stretches of the Indian Ocean have failed to find any sign of the plane.

Australia, which is leading the hunt, has stressed that it believes it is looking in the right area based on satellite communications from the plane.

Officials have said an intensified undersea mission will begin once new and more sophisticated equipment to complement Bluefin-21 can be obtained to search at depths of more than 4,500 metres (15,000 feet).

The ocean bed in the prospective search zone is not just deep but largely unmapped, meaning specialist sonar equipment and other autonomous vehicles are needed.

Malaysia has vowed to continue the search for the missing MH370 plane until it was found.

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