Focus now on Indian Ocean to locate missing Malaysia Airlines plane

Last Updated: Friday, March 14, 2014 - 18:01

Kuala Lumpur: International search operations today shifted its focus to the Indian Ocean to locate the Malaysian aircraft missing for the last one week amid conflicting reports that the jetliner may have flown towards the Andaman Islands, further compounding the mystery.

While one report suggested that Flight MH370 may have flown across the Malay peninsula towards the Andaman Islands, another quoting a US official spoke about the possibility of the plane having flown far away from the areas currently searched jointly by 13 countries, including India.

Aviation experts discounted both possibilities, reasoning that the Boeing 777-200 could not have flown undetected over such a long distance.

Malaysia today widened its search in the Indian Ocean for the missing plane with 239 people aboard and 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 a request from Malaysia.

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.

"And we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy," he said without specifying the nature of the new information.

The move to expand the search to the Indian Ocean came after the US` defence and aviation experts said that there was a significant probability of the plane to be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

"The US P-3 will search west of the Strait of Malacca in the Andaman Sea," Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Jeffrey Pool said.

USS Kidd - a guided-missile destroyer - which was initially deployed to the Gulf of Thailand is now transiting from the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean, the US Navy said.

A US official briefing on search said that the flight sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing, Washington Post reported.

The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Boeing 777-200 wasn`t transmitting data to the satellite, but was instead sending out a signal to establish contact.

"If the two engines on the Boeing 777 functioned for up to four additional hours, that could strengthen concern that a rogue pilot or hijacker took control of the plane early Saturday over the Gulf of Thailand," the paper said.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal said communication satellites received intermittent data "pings" from the missing jet, giving the plane`s location, speed and altitude for at least five hours after it disappeared from radar screens.
The final satellite ping was sent from over water, at what one of these people called a "normal" cruising altitude.
Noting that it is unclear why the transmissions stopped, the daily reported that one possibility could be that the system sending them had been disabled by someone on board.

PTI

First Published: Friday, March 14, 2014 - 17:58

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