28 Mar 2014

Search for missing MH370 moves closer to Australia

The search area for the Malaysia Airlines jetliner, which disappeared nearly three weeks ago, shifts to a new part of the Indian Ocean due to a “credible lead”.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said the search would now focus on an area 1,100km north-east of the previous zone.

The change is based on more analysis of radar data by Boeing that showed the plane was going faster between the South China Sea and the strait of Malacca, therefore using more fuel – and running out of it more quickly.

The Malaysian authorities said the new area could be consistent with possible debris spotted by satellite images. Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said: “Because of ocean drift, this new search area could still be consistent with the potential objects identified by various satellite images over the past week. This work is on-going, and we can expect further refinements.”

‘Complex investigation’

Journalists in Kuala Lumpur were told it was a “complex investigation” and search conditions remained “challenging”. Mr Hussein said help was being made available from across the world, which would “probably change the aviation landscape in future”.

The Boeing 777 disappeared on 8 March with 239 people on board, shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumper en route to Beijing.

The new area is around 319,000 sq kilometres (kms), and is closer to Perth – around 1,850 kms west of the Australian city. The ocean there is between 2,000m (6,560 feet) and 4,000m (13,120 feet) deep.

Ten aircraft and six ships have already been asigned to search this new part of the sea, which is expected to prove less challenging than the inital area: severe weather conditions had grounded planes searching the futher corner of the south Indian Ocean earlier in the week.

However refocusing the search on this new area makes the satellite photos of possible debris, that raised the hopes of finding the plane, completely redundant.