Australia narrows search area for Malaysian jet (Roundup)

Canberra/Kuala Lumpur, March 19: Australia Wednesday said it was narrowing its search area for the Malyasian airliner that went missing March 8 even as a check of the flight commander’s personal flight simulator showed all its logs had been deleted.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the search operation for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane was being conducted in a smaller area closer to the country’s western coast.

This comes after the search operation conducted by Australia Tuesday found no result relevant to the missing passenger jet.

John Young, general manager of AMSA’s Emergency Response Division, said a P-3 Orion aircraft of Royal Australian Air Force conducted the search Tuesday, covering an area of about 65,000 sq km, which is about one-tenth of the 600,000 sq km search area established by AMSA Monday, Xinhua reported.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea.

The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

“The search condition was good. The search crew saw marine life as they were flying through. So we know we can make sightings. There was no result that is relevant to the search,” Young said Wednesday.

The US National Transportation Safety Board refined the two possible routes taken by the missing plane based on a “better, more detailed” analysis of its fuel reserves. Based on the new routes, the search area was significantly refined.

The new area is about 300,000 square km, about half the size of Tuesday’s search area. It is also a little way east, about 2,600 km to Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

Meanwhile, a senior police official said in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday that all the game logs in the personal flight simulator of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who commanded the missing Malaysian airliner, were deleted Feb 3,

“What we found from the simulators is that the data log from the games was cleared Feb 3 so the experts are looking at what was cleared. Our forensic experts, including those from cyber security, Malaysia Airlines and foreign experts are working to restore the erased data logs in the flight simulator,” the Malaysian Star quoted Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar as saying at a press conference.

“We are hearing all information relevant to the case along with all relevant international agencies that require it. Local and international expertise has been recruited to examine the pilot’s flight simulator,” acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, who was also present at the press conference, said.

“All passengers, crew, and ground staff handling the aircraft are being investigated. I will say that the passengers, cabin crew and pilots remain innocent until proven otherwise,” Hishamuddin Hussein added.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Wednesday said it has strengthened its efforts to search for the missing passenger jet.

Following Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s instruction, Bangladesh Navy March 14 launched the search for the missing plane by deploying two frigates — BNS Umar Farooq and BNS Bangabandhu — and two aircraft.

“Yesterday we deployed BNS Somudro Joy instead of BNS Farooq as part of our efforts to strengthen our search operation,” Xinhua quoted Bangladesh Navy spokesman Syed Moksudul Hakim as telling journalists at a press briefing Wednesday.

“We’ve already searched 8,709 sq km area in the Bay of Bengal for Malaysia Airlines plane MH370,” he said. “But no clue has been found so far.”

According to another report from Male, Maldives police have launched an investigation into reports that residents of the remote island of Kuda Huvadhoo in Dhaal Atoll saw a “low flying jumbo jet ” March 8 morning after the Malaysia Airlines plane went missing.

Several residents of Kuda Huvadhoo told local media Tuesday that they saw a “low flying jumbo jet” at around 6.15 a.m. March 8 which was making an incredibly loud noise.

A report from Hyderabad in India said that pieces of what is suspected to be an aircraft were seen washed up on coast of the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh Wednesday.

According to a report in a Telugu television channel, fishermen, who saw them floating at Kutta Gouduru beach in T.P. Gudur mandal of Nellore district in south coastal Andhra off Bay of Bengal, informed the police.

According to the channel, the authorities alerted the top officials. However, there was no confirmation from any official if the objects seen floating were indeed pieces of an aircraft.

As of now, 26 countries are searching for the missing jet.

IANS