Malaysia authorities are pinning their hopes of finding the missing Malaysian airliner on the seabed of the Indian Ocean 2,000 kilometres west of Perth over the Easter weekend.
“The search for today and tomorrow is at a critical juncture,” the country’s acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Saturday.
“We appeal for everybody around the world to pray that we find something to work on in the couple of days,” he said.
"[The search] should be completed by next week": Malaysia's acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein. Photo: AP
“Whatever happens in that period, we will then regroup and discuss our next move.”
Mr Hishammuddin denied reports the search of a designated area would take six weeks to two months.
“That is not true. It should be completed by next week,” he told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
In Australia, officials supervising the search by a deep sea autonomous vehicle (AUV) called Bluefin 21 said the search area could be completed in five to seven days.
“Provided the weather is favourable for launch and recovery of the AUV and we have a good run with the serviceability of the AUV, we should complete the search of the focussed underwater area in five to seven days,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said.
The area was identified by four acoustic signals believed to have been sent by the plane’s black box recording device almost two weeks ago, before its battery power expired.
Malaysia authorities say they will review the search operation next week if nothing is found over the weekend.
Mr Hishammuddin said in a Twitter post that more autonomous underwater vehicles could be deployed.
The search is already set to be the most expensive in history, costing about US$100 million so far.
“When we look at salvaging (wreckage) at a depth of 4.5 kilometres, no military out there has the capacity to do it,” Mr Hishammuddin said.
“We have to look at contractors, and the cost of that will be huge,” he said.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 carrying 239 people disappeared over the South China Sea on March 8 while on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Investigators in Kuala Lumpur concede it may never be known what happened on board the Boeing 777 unless the plane’s two black box recorders are found and analysed.
Investigators have been unable to establish why the plane diverted thousands of kilometres off course before running out of fuel and crashing into one of the world’s most desolate oceans.