MH370 search team aims to set up Kazakh base

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Malaysian government representatives are seeking permission to establish a staging post in Kazakhstan to assist the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.

The request, confirmed by Malaysian acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein, indicates that the investigation has yet to rule out the northern search zone despite the attention on operations off the Australian coast.

Kazakhstani authorities have told investigators that they have found “no trace” of flight MH370, the minister stated during a press briefing on 21 March.

“We are awaiting permission for Kazakhstan to be used as a staging point for search operations,” he added.

No progress has been made on identifying the debris sighted by satellite far off Australia’s western shore, but additional aircraft – including two Chinese Ilyushin Il-76s and a Shaanxi Y-8, plus two Japanese Lockeed P-3s – are being deployed to aid the southern region search.

Hishammuddin added that he would request from the US government further specialised equipment, including remotely-piloted deep-ocean salvage vessels, and indicated the use of underwater sonic detection systems to pick up the locator beacon signals from the flight recorders.

But he warned that the search effort was “going to be a long haul”.

Hishammuddin also defended the time taken to disclose the existence of six electronic handshake signals from a geostationary Inmarsat satellite.

While the raw data had been received on 12 March – four days after the 8 March disappearance – this information was twice returned to US investigators for further refinement, and then cross-checked with UK investigators, before the results were publicly disclosed on 15 March and the search operation relocated.

“This type of data is not normally used in investigations of this sort,” said Hishammuddin. “It is only because we have so little other information to go on in this difficult and unprecedented situation that the data is being used.”