Malaysian Airlines Flight 370: Australia Expands Search Area, But Operation May Take 6-8 Months

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By Vittorio Hernandez | April 29, 2014 12:29 AM EST

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) extends his hand to greet Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Parker Song/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) extends his hand to greet Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Parker Song/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

After 52 frustrating days of searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 jet and zero results, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Monday that the country would enter the next phase of the search by expanding the search area.

However, the expanded search zone would be more frustrating for relatives of the 239 passengers and crew of the ill-fated Flight 370 since Mr Abbott estimates it could take the operation 6 to 8 months to do the job.

"We will do everything we humanly can, everything we reasonably can, to solve this mystery," the PM said, quoted by The New Strait Times.

He said the new search area would cover an area 700 kilometres by 80 kilometres, which would cost the Australian government up to A$60 million.

Besides being the most expensive search, it is also the most difficult search in human history, Mr Abbott said.

Search teams would still use the U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 submersible to search the ocean floor, plus specialised sonar equipment towed by vessels to scan the seabed for signs of wreckage.

The PM said that while authorities are confident that the signals last detected two weeks ago were from the black box of the plane that went missing on March 8 on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, most materials would by now be waterlogged and sunk.

Mr Abbott said that with the expansion of the coverage area, all aircraft used would be close to the limit of sensible and safe operation.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said that while the search team gave a 6- to 8-month time frame, he raised potentials issues that could prolong the search such as bad weather and potential problems with equipment such as the Bluefin 21 which has a number of teething problem with it.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) extends his hand to greet Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Parker Song/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
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