Malaysia Airlines MH370: Search Moves Closer to Australia; AU to Lead Search in “southern vector”

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By Athena Yenko | March 17, 2014 5:33 PM EST

On Sunday, the search for missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 moved closer to Australia as Malaysia made confirmation that the missing MH370 was intentionally diverted off its original course.

Search operations were now being focused from South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.

In Malaysia, officials announced its partnership with Australia and 25 countries, with the country leading the search towards the "southern vector."

In a press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that although he had not received any information that the plane could be somewhere close to Australia, he said that all agencies are now being instructed to help with the search.

 "But all of our agencies that could possibly help in this area are scouring their data to see if there's anything that they can add to the understanding of this mystery," he told reporters.

Mr Abbott said that that the continued support of two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircrafts was an answer to a request from Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

 "He asked that Australia take responsibility for the search on the southern vector, which the Malaysian authorities now think was one possible flight path for this ill-fated aircraft. I agreed that we would do so. I offered the Malaysian prime minister additional maritime surveillance resources which he gratefully accepted."

Mr Abbott vowed that Australia's responsibility in the search will be maintained and upheld, especially the responsibility due to the families of the passengers.

"And we will do our duty to the families of the 230 people on that aircraft who are still absolutely devastated by their absence and who are still profoundly, profoundly saddened by this as yet unfathomed mystery," Mr Abbott added.

Meanwhile, Defence said that it received instruction from Malaysian officials to search the Indian Ocean to the north and west of the Cocos Island.

Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley said on Sunday that one of the RAAF AP-3C Orions started its search across the instructed area, while the second aircraft will continue its search west of Malaysia.

Search results obtained by both aircrafts will be directed to the Malaysian authorities.

 "To date, RAAF AP-3C Orions operating from Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth, near Penang, have flown 51.5 hours on search missions. The Australian Defence Force continues to work closely with the Malaysian authorities coordinating the international search mission. Our thoughts remain with all those affected by this incident," Mr Hurley said.

Australia had originally provided two RAAF aircrafts to Malaysia on Sunday, March 9.

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