Australia says stepping up hunt for MH370, confident of search location

SYDNEY Australia will step up search efforts in an region they believe holds the ideal hope of obtaining a missing Malaysia Airlines jet, whose disappearance last year sparked a single of the greatest mysteries in aviation history, officials stated on Thursday.

An Australian-led underwater search, the most expensive ever performed, has so far identified no trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing with 239 passengers and crew during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014.

The number of vessels looking for the jet would be doubled to four, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss stated. A single of the vessels would be supplied by China.

The search has thus far focused on a 120,000 square km (46,330 square miles) band of sea floor in the remote southern Indian Ocean, exactly where the plane is believed to have gone down.

Truss, flanked by officials from the Australian Transport Security Bureau (ATSB) and Department of Defence, identified an region at the southern tip of that search band that is now believed to be the likeliest resting spot of the wreckage.

The region, described by Truss as a “purple patch”, had been selected based on an analysis of the flight information, path and information gleaned from global satellite networks.

“We have a high level of self-confidence that we are looking in the correct area,” Assistant Minister for Defence Darren Chester told a media conference in Canberra.

A piece of the plane found washed up on the French island of Reunion in July offered the very first direct evidence that the plane had crashed into the sea. No additional trace has been located.

Professionals involved in past deep-water searches have said the hunt could easily miss the plane simply because Dutch business Fugro NV was employing inappropriate technology and inexperienced personnel for the very specialized job.

Fugro did not respond to requests for comment when that criticism was created.

U.S. firm Williamson & Associates said pictures of the southern Indian Ocean floor released by the ATSB in October bore a striking similarity to the underwater debris field Air France Flight 447 left on the Atlantic Ocean floor when it crashed in 2009, killing all 228 passengers and crew.

Far more than 70,000 sq km have currently been checked. The search of the whole band was anticipated to be completed by June 2016, Truss mentioned.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel Editing by Paul Tait)

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