Halting of MH370 search a 'massive setback'

Officials were forced to call off search efforsts until tomorrow due to dangerous weather conditions.

A US Navy handout image shows naval aviators during a mission to assist in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on 24 March. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Today's halt in the search for the wreckage of the missing Malaysian airlines plane has been described as a massive setback.

Officials were forced to call off efforts until tomorrow due to dangerous weather conditions in the southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced yesterday that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished more than two weeks ago while flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

Aviation lawyer Mary Schiavo says, "it's a very big setback for gathering the debris. But I guess if there's any hope at all, all they need is just a little bit and they can always trace whatever they do find back and still try locate where the place of impact was to search for those black boxes."

Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off on 8 March. No confirmed debris from the plane has been found since.

Investigators believe someone on the flight may have shut off the plane's communications systems. Partial military radar tracking showed it turning west and re-crossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.

Recovery of wreckage could unlock clues about why the plane had diverted so far off course.

Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.