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Weather halts Malaysian plane hunt


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Abbott also said Australia would waive visa fees for relatives of the passengers and crew on Flight 370 who wanted to come to Australia.

Some of the relatives who gathered to hear Najib met the news with shrieks and uncontrolled sobs. Others collapsed into the arms of loved ones.

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"My son! My son!" cried a woman in a group of about 50 gathered at a hotel near Beijing’s airport, before falling to her knees. Minutes later, medical teams carried one elderly man out of the conference room on a stretcher, his face covered by a jacket.

Other relatives in Beijing went before cameras to criticize the Malaysian officials who "have concealed, delayed and hid the truth" about what happened to the plane. About two-thirds of the passengers on board were Chinese.

"If the 154 of our loved ones lose their lives, then Malaysia Airlines, the government of Malaysia and the military are really the executors of our loved ones," said a spokesman for the group who, like many Chinese, would give only his surname, Jiang. China includes one Taiwanese national in its total of Chinese on the flight.

Najib’s announcement did nothing to answer why the plane disappeared shortly after takeoff. More specifically, it sheds no light on investigators’ questions about possible mechanical or electrical failure, hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.

And it is not clear if the latest information can provide an exact location or just a rough estimate of where the jet crashed into the sea.

But several countries had already been moving specialized equipment into the area to prepare for a possible search for the plane and its black boxes, the common name for the cockpit voice and data recorders.

And there is a race against the clock to find any trace of the plane that could lead them to the location of the black boxes, whose battery-powered "pinger" could stop sending signals within two weeks. The batteries are designed to last at least a month and can last longer.

An Australian navy support vessel, the Ocean Shield, was expected to arrive in several days in the search zone, a defense official said. The ship is equipped with acoustic detection equipment that can search for the black boxes. Without them, it would be virtually impossible for investigators to say definitively what happened to the plane.


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"We’ve got to get lucky," said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. "It’s a race to get to the area in time to catch the black box pinger while it’s still working."

The U.S. Pacific Command said before Najib’s announcement that it was sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located.

The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability that can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet (6,100 meters), Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. 7th Fleet operations officer, said in a statement. He called it "a prudent effort to pre-position equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area."

The U.S. Navy has also sent an unmanned underwater vehicle to Perth that could be used if debris is located, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. The Bluefin-21, expected to arrive in Perth on Wednesday, has side-scanning sonar and what is called a "multi-beam echo sounder" that can be used to take a closer look at objects under water, he added. It can operate at a depth of 4,500 meters (14,700 feet).

The search for the wreckage and the plane’s recorders could take years because the ocean can extend to up to 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) deep in that part of the ocean. It took two years to find the black box from an Air France jet that went down in the Atlantic Ocean on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, and searchers knew within days where the crash site was.

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Associated Press writers Todd Pitman in Kuala Lumpur; Christopher Bodeen, Ian Mader, Aritz Parra and Didi Tang in Beijing; Cassandra Vinograd in London; Darlene Superville in Washington; and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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