CANBERRA, Australia -- The seabed search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is set to widen as a sonar scan of the most likely crash site deep beneath the Indian Ocean nears completion without yielding a single clue, authorities said on Friday.
The Australian search coordination center said a robotic submarine had scanned 95 percent of a 120-square-mile search area since last week but had found nothing of interest. The U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 is creating a three-dimensional sonar map of the ocean floor near where signals consistent with airplane black boxes were heard on April 8.
The search area is a circle with a 6-mile radius about 2.8 miles deep off the west Australian coast. The search of the target area is scheduled to be completed within days.
"If no contacts of interest are made, Bluefin-21 will continue to examine the areas adjacent to the 10-kilometer radius," the center said in a statement.
"We are currently consulting very closely with our international partners on the best way to continue the search into the future," it added, referring to Malaysia, United States and China.
Australian Defense Minister David Johnston has said that an announcement was likely next week on the next phase of the search for the Boeing 777 which vanished on March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
He said the next phase was likely to deploy more powerful side-scan sonar equipment that can delve deeper than the Bluefin-21.
- The Associated Press
First published April 25 2014, 2:22 AM