US officials helping in efforts to locate a missing Malaysian plane on Friday said they are shifting their search to the Indian Ocean region amid reports that the aircraft could have flown for several hours before it disappeared nearly a week ago.
“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.” 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.
India, along with US Navy’s P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft with long-range radar and communication capabilities, will search in the Andaman Sea west of the Malacca Strait. “The US P-3 will search west of the Strait of Malacca in the Andaman Sea,” Lt Col Jeffrey Pool, a Pentagon spokesman said.
USS Kidd is now transiting from the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean, the US Navy said, referring to a guided- missile destroyer initially deployed to the Gulf of Thailand.
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Malaysia Airlines Beijing-bound flight MH370 was carrying 227 passengers, including five Indians and one Indian-origin Canadian, and 12 crew members when it mysteriously vanished from radar screens an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur last week.
There has been no trace of the plane nor any sign of wreckage despite a search by the navies and military aircraft of more than a dozen countries across Southeast Asia. India yesterday deployed four warships to locate the jetliner.
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.