5:16 pm - Monday May 23, 4072

Malaysia jet MH370 search enters Day 7; focus on Indian Ocean region

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The needle-in-a-haystack hunt for a missing Malaysian airliner spread to the vast Indian Ocean Friday after the White House cited “new information” that it might have flown for hours after vanishing nearly seven days ago.

Multiple US media reports, citing US officials, said the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777’s communication system continued to “ping” a satellite for a number of hours after it disappeared off radar with 239 people aboard, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“It’s my understanding that based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive, but new information, an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“We are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.”

The US Navy ordered a ship and a P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane to the Indian Ocean to join another plane already aiding the search effort, one official told AFP, after India said it was also deploying assets to the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“The USS Kidd is transiting the Strait of Malacca en route to the Indian Ocean,” the US navy official said, referring to a guided-missile destroyer initially deployed to the Gulf of Thailand on the other side of Malaysia’s coast.

Malaysia’s government is aware of the US media reports and White House statement and is looking into the matter, a spokesman for the country’s search response effort told AFP on Friday, declining further comment.

The focus in the jet search has see-sawed between an initial hunt in the South China Sea and adjacent Gulf of Thailand, over which radar contact with the plane ended, to the Malacca Strait — the entry point for the Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean beyond.

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