Kuala Lumpur/New Delhi: Search operations for the Malaysian jetliner, which mysteriously disappeared last Friday, moved closer to the Chennai coast with India today readying to deploy its assets in the Bay of Bengal following a fresh request from Kuala Lumpur.
Acceding to Malaysia`s request, India has expanded its search to scour an expanse of more than 9,000 square kilometres in the Bay of Bengal, about 300 km from the Chennai coast, officials said.
Conflicting reports further compounding the mystery of the missing Flight MH370 ferrying 239 people continued to surface today with one report suggesting that the plane turned back after it lost radar contact and flew over Malaysia.
Another report quoting an unnamed US official said investigators were probing whether it was an act of piracy with the possibility of someone diverting the aircraft.
As joint search operations by 13 countries including India intensified, aviation experts reasoned that the Boeing 777-200 could not have flown undetected over such a long distance.
Widening its search in the Indian Ocean, Malaysia today sought radar data from its neighbours and India.
The request from Malaysia came a day after India joined the massive search operations by deploying six aircraft including its latest special surveillance P-8I plane and three helicopters under `Operation Searchlight`.
India`s navy, air force and coast guard are searching for the MH370 flight in the south Andaman Sea following the request.
Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said his country has sought radar data from India and other neighbouring countries to trace the plane that went missing after taking off late on Friday from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
"The aircraft is still missing, and the search area is expanding," he said. "Together with our international partners, we are pushing further east into the South China Sea and further into the Indian Ocean."
As world awaits potential clues to plane`s mysterious disappearance, US officials helping in efforts to trace the plane today said they are shifting their search to the Indian Ocean region.
"It`s my understanding that based on some new information that`s not necessarily conclusive - but new information - an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in Washington.
The missing jetliner carrying 227 passengers, including five Indians and one Indian-origin Canadian, and 12 crew members mysteriously vanished from radar screens an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
There has been no trace of the plane nor any sign of wreckage despite a search by the navies and military aircraft of 13 countries across Southeast Asia.