Indian search finds no trace of Malaysian plane

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Associated Press

Posted on March 15, 2014 at 2:02 AM

Updated Sunday, Mar 16 at 1:05 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian navy ships supported by long-range surveillance planes and helicopters scoured Andaman Sea islands for a third day on Saturday without any success in finding evidence of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, officials said.

Nearly a dozen ships, patrol vessels, surveillance aircraft and helicopters have been deployed, but "we have got nothing so far," said V.S.R. Murthy, an Indian coast guard official.

The Indian navy's coordinated search has so far covered more than 250,000 square kilometers (100,579 square miles) in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal "without any sighting or detection," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The search has been expanded to the central and eastern sides of the Bay of Bengal, the ministry said.

India intensified the search on Saturday by deploying two recently acquired P8i long-range maritime patrol and one C 130J Hercules aircraft to the region. Short-range maritime reconnaissance Dornier aircraft have also been deployed, the ministry said.

Bangladesh has joined the search effort in the Bay of Bengal with two patrol aircraft and two frigates, said Mahbubul Haque Shakil, an aide of Bangladesh's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.

Seeing no headway, Malaysian authorities suggested Friday a new search area of 9,000 square kilometers (3,474 square miles) to India along the Chennai coast in the Bay of Bengal, India's Defense Ministry said.

On Friday, India used heat sensors on flights over hundreds of uninhabited Andaman Sea islands that stretch south of Myanmar, covering an area 720 kilometers (447 miles) long and 52 kilometers (32 miles) wide. Only 37 of 572 are inhabited, with the rest covered in dense forests.

The island chain has four airstrips, but only the main airport in Port Blair can handle a large commercial jet.

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Associated Press writer Julhas Alam contributed to this report from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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