Friday, March 14, 2014, 11:38
Jet: US zeroes in on Indian Ocean, China varsity spots 'seafloor event'
By P Aruna, The Star/ANN

 Jet: US zeroes in on Indian Ocean, China varsity spots 'seafloor event'
A US Navy helicopter lands aboard Destroyer USS Pinckney during a crew swap before returning to a search and rescue mission for the missing Malaysian airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand on March 9, 2014. (Photo / AP)

KUALA LUMPUR - The international search for the missing Malaysian jetliner expanded Friday further into the Indian Ocean amid signs the aircraft may have flown on for hours after its last contact with air-traffic control nearly a week ago.

A new search area in the Indian Ocean has raised hopes of finding the missing MH370 with the Pentagon confirming that new evidence has emerged. A Pentagon official told The Star that the US was opening a new area of investigation following indications that the Boeing 777-200ER could have gone down there.

A US official told The Associated Press that the Malaysia Airlines plane sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing early last Saturday, raising the possibility the jet carrying 239 people could have flown far from the current search areas. It also increased speculation that whatever happened to the plane was a deliberate act.

The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Boeing 777-200 wasn't transmitting data to the satellite but was sending a signal to establish contact.

In another development, Chinese researchers have detected a "seafloor event" near the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, an area suspected to be linked with the missing Malaysian jetliner MH370, Xinhua university announced on Friday, reports Xinhua.

The event occurred at about 2:55 am local time on Saturday, about one and a half hours after the plane's last definitive sighting on civilian radar.

The area, 116 km northeast from where the last contact with the Boeing plane was recorded, used to be a non-seismic region, according to a research group on seismology and physics of the earth's interior under the University of Science and Technology of China.

The seafloor event could have been caused by the plane possibly plunging into the sea, the research group said.

When contacted in the early hours on Friday, A Pentagon official said he had no knowledge of whether missile destroyer USS Kidd was heading there for search operations.

But the US Navy 7th Fleet told Associated Press said it was moving one of its ships, the USS Kidd, into the Strait of Malacca.

According to Reuters, the US Navy was sending an advanced P-8A Poseidon plane to help search the Strait of Malacca, separating the Malay Peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It had already deployed a Navy P-3 Orion aircraft to those waters. The Kidd had been searching the areas south of the Gulf of Thailand, along with the destroyer USS Pinckney.

"The White House press secretary has just said that we may open a search in the Indian Ocean,” the Pentagon official said.

Reuters reported that White House spokesman Jay Carney said they had new information on the whereabouts of the plane.

In the transcript of the White House’s latest press briefing on its website, Carney said: "Conclusions cannot be drawn at this time, in our view, and we continue to participate actively in the search as well as assist the Malaysian government in the investigation.

India said Friday it was expanding its search for the missing Malaysian jetliner to seas west of the Andaman Islands as the international hunt shifted toward the Indian Ocean amid signs that the jet may have flown on for hours after last contact.

Six Indian navy and coast guard ships plus reconnaissance planes have searched eastern parts of Andaman seas over the past three days, and were expanding their search to areas west of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain Friday, said VSR Murty, an Indian Coast Guard inspector.

Meanwhile, Vietnam, which has been heavily involved in the search from the start, downgraded its hunt in the South China Sea, said Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People's Army.