Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Alastair Jamieson

Gale-force winds and waves as high as 23 feet were forecast in the southern Indian Ocean where experts are searching for missing Flight MH370, investigators said Wednesday.

The search of the floor of the southern Indian Ocean could be suspended if conditions worsen in the 46,000-square-mile southern hemisphere zone where investigators say the Boeing 777 is most likely to have crashed.

“Search operations will carry on through the winter months, but pauses are anticipated,” the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) announced in a routine update. “The weather is forecast to deteriorate in the coming week with anticipated gale-force winds and predicted waves of up to [23 feet].”

The update came as the search vessels passed the halfway mark in their hunt for the Malaysian Airlines jet, which disappeared on March 8, 2014. It was carrying 239 people on board.

More than 23,000 square miles of the ocean floor have now been scoured, the ATSB said.

The only sign of the aircraft to date has been a barnacle-encrusted piece of a wing flap that washed up on the French island of Reunion last month.