28 Apr 2014

'New phase' in Malaysian plane search

11:43 pm on 28 April 2014

The Australian Prime Minister has announced the search for the missing Malaysian jetliner is being scaled back. Authorities described it as a 'new phase' in the search.

Tony Abbott said so far efforts in the air and sea had failed to find any trace of the plane or the 239 people aboard, including two New Zealanders.

Mr Abbot said it was unlikely any debris was still on the surface as it would have become waterlogged over the 52 days the plane has been missing.

He said that a "much larger" area of the ocean floor would now be targeted, and would include an intensified underwater search with different technologies, such as specialised scan equipment towed by ships.

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Photo: AFP

Officials said that, based on satellite information, they believed the plane ended its journey in seas northwest of the Australian city of Perth, far from its planned path.

Investigators have given no reason yet as to why the plane flew so far off course. Finding the "black box" flight recorders is seen as key to understanding what happened.

Tony Abbot acknowledged what he called the "tremendous work" of air crews from eight nations who had contributed to the air search in the southern Indian Ocean.