Tropical cyclone threatens to hamper the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

A tropical cyclone was threatening to hamper the search for a missing Malaysian jetliner in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean on Monday Apr. 21, as a submarine drone neared the end of its mission scouring the sea bed with still no sign of wreckage.

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, has narrowed to a 10 sq km (6.2 sq mile) patch of sea floor about 2,000 km (1,200 miles) west of the Australian city of Perth.

Search authorities and the Australian and Malaysian governments have said a series of sonar signals, or “pings”, traced to the area may have emanated from the plane’s “black box” and present the most credible lead as to its whereabouts.

However no pings have been detected in almost two weeks and authorities now fear that, with the flight data recorder’s battery several weeks past its expected expiry date, the black box may not emit further signals.

A U.S. Navy remote controlled submarine, the Bluefin-21, was on its ninth mission scanning the largely unmapped stretch of sea bed where the pings are believed to have come from, with still no trace found, Australian search officials said on Monday.

“Bluefin-21 has searched approximately two-thirds of the focused underwater search area to date. No contacts of interest have been found to date,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement.

The center added that the search, which has so far been largely unimpeded by weather, may be affected as Tropical Cyclone Jack continued to move south over the ocean.

“Widespread showers are developing with isolated thunderstorms to the north and east south-easterly winds,” the center said of the weather forecast in the search area, reported Reuters.