Malaysian plane search area extends west

03:44, Mar 15 2014
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Journalists attempt to interview a woman who is the relative of a passenger on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, as she crouches on the floor crying, at the Beijing Capital International Airport.
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A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries, surrounded by journalists, at the Beijing Capital International Airport on March 8, 2014.
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The Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew lost contact with air traffic controllers early on Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the airline said in a statement.
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An aerial view of an oil spill is seen from a Vietnamese Air Force aircraft in the search area for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, 250 km from Vietnam and 190 km from Malaysia, in this handout photo from Thanh Nien Newpaper taken on March 8.
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A spokesman (centre) of Malaysia Airlines is surrounded by journalists as he gives a briefing about Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at a hotel in Beijing March 8, 2014.
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A relative (front) of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she walks past journalists at a hotel in Beijing March 9, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER aircraft carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew was presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast on Saturday.
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Malaysia Airlines Commercial Director Hugh Dunleavy (centre) speaks to journalists about information of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
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Vietnamese Air Force officers sit in the cockpit of a search and rescue aircraft as they fly over the search area for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
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Volunteer rescue workers and religious organisations pray during multi-religion mass prayers for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.
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A view of oil slicks (pale line near the bottom right) spotted in an area of the South China Sea about 100 nautical miles (185 km) from Tok Bali Beach in Malaysia's Kelantan state.
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Admiral Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish, Director General of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, looks at a radar screen while searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane in the South China Sea.
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A relative (left) of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is escorted by a caregiver from Malaysia Airlines as they walk in a corridor at a hotel in Beijing.
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Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik applies the final touches to a sand art sculpture he created wishing for the well being of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, on a beach in Puri, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
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Life vests and lifesavers are seen onboard a Vietnam Air Force search and rescue aircraft on a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Tho Chu island.
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Journalists place their recorders as they get ready for the first briefing of the day at a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 10.
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Relatives of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry inside a hotel they are staying, in Putrajaya. China has urged Malaysia to step up the search for the jetliner that went missing with 239 people on board, about two-thirds of them Chinese, and said it has sent security agents to help with an investigation into the misuse of passports.
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An officer looks out of a helicopter during a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, near Tho Chu Island.
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A map of a flight plan is seen on a computer screen during a meeting before a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, at Phu Quoc Airport.
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A woman stands in front of a giant screen showing the number hours since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing, in Beijing on March 10.
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A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 waits for news at Lido Hotel on March 10, in Beijing, China. Investigative teams continue to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the 293 passengers that were travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
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Dato' Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation briefs the media over latest updates on missing Malaysia Airline MH370 on March 10, in Kuala Lumpur.
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Clouds hover outside the window of a Vietnam Air Force search and rescue aircraft An-26 on a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Vietnam's Tho Chu island.
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People believed to be relatives of passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are escorted to the VIP section of the Beijing Capital International Airport prior to flying to Kuala Lumpur.
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A Chinese relative of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines MH370 is comforted by a staff member of the airport as she shields her face from journalists at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
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A combination photo shows two men whom police said were travelling on stolen passports onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane.
Military personnel look out of a Singapore Air Force plane during the search
Military personnel look out of a Singapore Air Force plane during the search.
General Khalid Abu Bakar
Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar, addresses a news conference.
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Students from an international school in east China city Zhuji pray for the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
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LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: Family members of missing passengers leave a meeting in a Beijing Hotel.
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MESSAGE OF HOPE: A Vietnamese tourist writes a message of hope for missing passengers and crew.
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MESSAGES FOR THE MISSING: Tying a message of hope on a message board for passengers and crew.
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A relative of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 answers media questions at Lido Hotel.
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A charity worker comforts an emotional relative of a passenger.
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Indian sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik works on a sand sculpture of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at golden beach at Puri in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
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Satellite images reveal a possible crash site for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, where three large objects were seen in the water.
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An object sits in the water in satellite imagery released by China.
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The zone where the mystery objects were found.
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What appears to be fuel sits on the water in the area where three large objects were found.
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A crew member from the Royal Malaysian Air Force looks through the window of a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a Search and Rescue operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Kidd and USS Pinckney are seen en transit in the Pacific Ocean in this US Navy picture taken May 18, 2011. Kidd and Pinkney have been searching for the missing Malaysian airliner and are being re-deployed to the Strait of Malacca off Malaysia's west coast as new search areas are opened in the Indian Ocean.
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Students watch as a group of artists put the finishing touches to a three dimensional artwork at a school in Makati city, metro Manila. According to the artists, the artwork is their way of expressing sympathy towards the relatives of passengers onboard the missing Boeing 777-200ER.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein shows two maps with corridors of the last known possible location of the missing plane.
Selamat Omar shows a picture of his son, flight engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat
Selamat Omar shows a picture of his son, flight engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat who was onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Chinese relatives of the missing passengers
Chinese relatives of the missing passengers who were travelling onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 watch a television displaying a Malaysian press conference at Lido Hotel in Beijing.
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A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as he watches a message board dedicated to passengers.
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Satellite photos from March 20 show the objects "possibly associated" with the search for the missing plane. The images were released hours after Australia announced it had "credible" leads in the search for flight MH370.
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Satellite photos from March 20 show the objects "possibly associated" with the search for the missing plane. The images were released hours after Australia announced it had "credible" leads in the search for flight MH370.
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A still image taken from video shows an image of an object spotted in the southern Indian Ocean by the Gaofen-1 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite of CNSA.
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Pilot Dave Smith (R) gives a pre-flight briefing aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft before taking off to search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at RAAF base Pearce near Perth, March 22, 2014.
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Family members of passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 raise their fists as they shout "return our families" to protest against the lack of new information after a routine briefing given by Malaysia's government and military representatives at Lido Hotel in Beijing March 22, 2014.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds up a note that he has just received on a new lead in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, during a news conference at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 22, 2014.
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Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (bottom C) takes part in a special prayer for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque in Putrajaya March 21, 2014.
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A woman writes on a banner of well wishes for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 14, 2014.
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A family member of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 covers her face as she cries after a routine briefing given by Malaysia Airlines at Lido Hotel in Beijing, March 22, 2014.
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A girl reads some of the messages of hope and support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at a mall outside Kuala Lumpur March 22, 2014.
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A crew member aboard a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion uses binoculars as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 March 22, 2014.
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A woman writes another message of hope and support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at a mall outside Kuala Lumpur March 22, 2014.
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Map of the southern Indian Ocean locating site where a satellite may have found debris related to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; includes satellite images of possible debris. MCT
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Solid matter is pictured floating in the southern Indian Ocean seen from a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searching for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
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INDIAN OCEAN - This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the planned search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 24, 2014.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds satellite images as he speaks about the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 26.
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A satellite photo, showing the locations and co-ordinates of unknown objects reported by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) in the Indian Ocean. The images were taken on March 23 and released on March 26.
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A satellite photo, showing the location of unknown objects reported by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) in the Indian Ocean. The images were taken on March 23 and released on March 26.

The missing Malaysian plane could be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, according to a new report.

A US official has reportedly said there's a "likelihood'' the missing plane is at the bottom of that ocean, according to CNN.

The engines of a missing Malaysian airliner continued to operate for about four hours after it disappeared from radar over the Gulf of Thailand, US authorities say, providing a tantalising new lead in a case that has baffled Malaysian authorities and turned into one of the biggest aviation mysteries in history.

As a result of unspecified "new information", White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier today that authorities searching for the plane may expand the hunt into the Indian Ocean, which extends hundreds of kilometres farther west.

Obama administration officials later said the new information was that the plane's engines remained running for approximately four hours after it vanished from radar early on Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

There were 239 people on board the plane. Two of them were New Zealanders.

One senior administration official said the data showing the plane engines running hours after contact was lost came from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, a way that planes maintain contact with ground stations through radio or satellite signals. The official said Malaysian authorities shared the flight data with the administration.

The Boeing 777-200 was sending out a signal to establish contact wtih a satellite, an official told AP.

Boeing offers a satellite service that can receive a stream of data during flight on how the aircraft is functioning. Malaysia Airlines didn't subscribe to that service, but the plane still had the capability of connecting with the satellite and was automatically sending pings, the official said.

"It's like when your cellphone is off but it still sends out a little 'I'm here' message to the cellphone network," the official said. "That's how sometimes they can triangulate your position even though you're not calling because the phone every so often sends out a little bleep. That's sort of what this thing was doing."

The continuing pings led searchers to believe the plane could have flown more than 1600km beyond its last confirmed sighting on radar, the official said. The plane had enough fuel to fly about four more hours, he said.

Messages involving a different data service also were received from the airliner for a short time after the plane's transponder - a device used to identify the plane to radar - went silent, the official said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that US investigators suspect that the engines kept running for up to four more hours after the plane reached its last known location. The paper later corrected its report to say that this belief was based on satellite data, not signals from monitoring systems embedded in the plane's Rolls-Royce engines. The Malaysian government denied the initial report.

The developments came as the government in Kuala Lumpur acknowledged that it has made little progress in solving the mystery of the vanished plane.

The US officials said they did not know what direction the plane flew — or whether it simply circled — during the approximately four hours or whether it was airborne at all. But that stretch of additional flight time could have put the plane somewhere over the Indian Ocean, prompting US officials to consider expanding the search into that area.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation.

In a news conference, Malaysia's defence minister and a Malaysia Airlines chief executive played down or dismissed a series of leads that had led to frenzied speculation about the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which went missing nearly a week ago in a case that has become more difficult by the day.

In what Malaysian officials describe as an unprecedented aviation mystery, it remains unknown whether the plane, which carried 239 passengers and crew, is on land or in water, east of the country or to the west, or even somewhere far beyond.

In Washington, Carney told reporters that the United States is not in a position to draw any conclusions. However, he added, "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".

Search operations in the Indian Ocean, the world's third-largest ocean with an average depth of nearly 12,800 feet (3.9km), would present significant challenges.

The United States is "consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy", Carney said at a White House news briefing on Thursday (local time).

Pressed for details, Carney said that "one possible piece of information or . . . pieces of information has led to the possibility that a new . . . search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean, but I don't have any more details on that".

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Adding to the confusion, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Pool, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department has no reason to believe that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean. He said US Navy assets participating in the search are being guided by the Malaysian government's investigation. He said he did not know what new information Carney was referring to.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's defence minister and acting transport minister, said in Kuala Lumpur: "We have looked at every lead. In many cases, in fact all the cases, we have not found anything positive." He added, "Without debris, we can't feel we are making any progress."

As the search area continued to widen, the US Navy said it was shifting one of its ships involved in the hunt, the destroyer USS Kidd, from the Gulf of Thailand northeast of Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca on the western side of the Malay Peninsula.

The US military also announced that it would add a P-8A Poseidon aircraft to the search on Friday. That plane is described by its manufacturer, Boeing, the world's most sophisticated "long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft". It will join a Navy P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft already patrolling as part of the massive international operation.

India's Defense Ministry said Thursday that the Indian navy has launched its own search mission, sending two ships — the INS Kumbhir, an amphibious warfare ship, and the INS Saryu, a patrol vessel — into the Andaman Sea near the Malacca Strait. India also appointed Air Marshal AK Roy as co-ordinator for rescue operations with Malaysian authorities.

Indian coast guard and navy aircraft were also pressed into service from a base on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A senior Indian official said late on Thursday that a total of three ships, two planes and a helicopter have now been dispatched in the growing search effort.

Burma said it would open its airspace to planes looking for the missing airliner and was prepared to join the search if asked, the BBC reported.

Flight 370 was initially supposed to follow a northern path to Beijing. Search teams from as many as 12 nations have been scouring the waters to the east and west of Malaysia. Earlier on Thursday, attention focused on satellite images from a Chinese agency that showed three large objects in the water south of Vietnam. But by midday, Malaysian authorities were dismissing the likelihood that those objects belonged to the plane.

Both Malaysian and Vietnamese teams returned on Thursday to the co-ordinates of the large objects but found nothing.

Even as viewed by satellite, the objects didn't seem to match that of a plane wreck. The largest of the objects was roughly the size of a basketball court, with no smaller debris around. The Chinese Embassy in Malaysia notified the Malaysian government on Thursday, saying the images — released by a relatively unknown Chinese agency — were made public by mistake and did not relate to Flight 370.

Hishammuddin said it remained possible that the plane turned around, diverting to the west after disappearing from radar. But he added that the search was still focused around the location where the plane vanished. Of 46 ships involved in the search, 26 are in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, and 17 on the western side, in the Strait of Malacca and Andaman Sea.

"Our main effort has always been in the South China Sea," Hishammuddin said.

Malaysia has been criticised for at times releasing partial or contradictory information about the flight and search. The criticism has been most pointed from China, which had 153 citizens on the flight. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Thursday that Beijing had "asked the relevant party to enhance co-ordination" and find the plane as quickly as possible.

"First, this situation is unprecedented," Hishammuddin said, in deflecting the criticism. "MH370 went completely silent while over the open ocean. We are in the middle of a multi-national search involving many countries. This is a crisis situation. It is a very complex operation. And it has not always been easy."

But, he added, "We have not done anything that could jeopardise this search effort."

Malaysia Airlines announced separately on Thursday that "as a mark of respect to the passengers and crew of MH370" who disappeared on March 8, it will retire the MH370 and MH371 flight codes it has used on its routes to and from Beijing. MH is the designation for Malaysian Airline System, as the carrier is officially named.

- The Washington Post