A total of 20 aircraft and ships were again scouring a massive
area in the Indian Ocean some 2,000 km (1,200 miles) west of Perth,
where investigators believe the Boeing 777 carrying 239 people came
"I'm certainly not putting a time limit on it," Abbott told
reporters after meeting flight crews at Pearce airbase in Perth.
"The intensity of our search and the magnitude of our operations is
increasing, not decreasing," he said, adding that searchers owed it
to grieving families of passengers to continue the hunt.
Some families have strongly criticized Malaysia's handling of the
search and investigation, including the decision last week to say
that, based on satellite evidence, the plane had crashed in the
southern Indian Ocean on March 8.
Abbott rejected suggestions his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak,
had been too hasty to break that news, given that no confirmed
wreckage from the plane has been found and its last sighting on
radar was northwest of Malaysia heading towards India.
"No, the accumulation of evidence is that the aircraft has been lost
and it has been lost somewhere in the south of the Indian Ocean," he
Najib will travel to the western Australian city of Perth, the base
for the search, on Wednesday to see the operations first hand,
Malaysia's government said.
Malaysia says the plane, which disappeared less than an hour into a
flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was likely diverted
deliberately far off course. Investigators have determined no
apparent motive or other red flags among the 227 passengers or the
China has also been critical in Malaysia's handling of the case, but
in a sign of softening, the official China Daily said it was
understandable that not all sensitive information could be made
"Although the Malaysian government's handling of the crisis has been
quite clumsy, we need to understand that this is perhaps the most
bizarre incident in Asia civil aviation history," the editorial on
"Public opinion should not blame the Malaysian authorities for
deliberately covering up information in the absence of hard
Dozens of items have been spotted since Australian authorities moved
the search 1,100 km (685 miles) north after new analysis of radar
and satellite data, but none has been linked to Flight MH370.
Several orange items recovered on Sunday turned out to be fishing
equipment, a spokesman from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
"Yesterday's finds were nothing of note, nothing related to the
plane," he said.
A multinational air search team and 10 ships, including seven
Chinese vessels, two Australian navy craft and a merchant ship, were
searching the area on Monday.
A Malaysian frigate arrived at HMAS Stirling naval base near Perth
for briefings on the search area, AMSA added.
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The new search area, while closer to Perth and subject to calmer
weather, is also closer to an area of the Indian Ocean where
currents drag all manner of flotsam and rubbish.
"I would say the search area is located just outside of what we call
the garbage patches," Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at the
University of New South Wales said.
"However, there is much more
debris there than in the Southern Ocean. Debris from Western
Australia that ends up in the garbage patches will have to move
through the search area."
But the greatest problem remains the vast search area, roughly the
size of Poland or New Mexico.
"If you compare this to Air France Flight 447, we had much better
positional information of where that aircraft went into the water,"
U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews said on Sunday , referring to a
plane that crashed in 2009 near Brazil and which took more than two
years to find.
Among the vessels due to join the search in the coming days is an
Australian defense force ship, the Ocean Shield, that has been
fitted with a sophisticated U.S. black box locator and an underwater
That equipment cannot be used until "conclusive visual evidence" of
debris is found, U.S. Navy spokesman Commander William Marks told
CBS's "Face the Nation" program.
If no location is found, searchers would have to use sonar to
methodically map the bottom of the ocean, he said. "That is an
incredibly long process to go through. It is possible, but it could
take quite a while," he said.
Time is running out because the signal transmitted by the black box
will die about 30 days after a crash due to limited battery life,
leaving investigators with a vastly more difficult task.
Malaysia's acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said he
would discuss the deployment of "more specific military assets"
during a regional defense ministers' meeting with the United States
in Hawaii that he is attending from Tuesday.
"I shall be discussing with the United States, and our other friends
and allies, how best we can acquire the assets needed for possible
deep sea search and recovery," said Hishammuddin, who is also
Malaysia's defense minister.
(Additional reporting by Morag MacKinnon and Matt Siegel in Perth,
Jane Wardell and Lincoln Feast in Sydney, Adam Jourdan in Shanghai
and Andrea Shalal in Washington; writing by Lincoln Feast; editing
by Alex Richardson)
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