Day 18: Malaysia halts northern corridor search

 Australia's Defense Minister David Johnston, center, speaks to the media about developments in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia. Not one object has been recovered from the missing airliner that Malaysian officials are now convinced plunged into the southern Indian Ocean 17 days ago. Australian Defense Minister Johnston said, “The turning point for us, I think, will be when we pull some piece of debris from the surface of the ocean and positively identify it as being part of the aircraft.” (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

Australia's Defense Minister David Johnston, center, speaks to the media about developments in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia. Not one object has been recovered from the missing airliner that Malaysian officials are now convinced plunged into the southern Indian Ocean 17 days ago. Australian Defense Minister Johnston said, “The turning point for us, I think, will be when we pull some piece of debris from the surface of the ocean and positively identify it as being part of the aircraft.” (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

The Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia —

Malaysia said Tuesday that it has narrowed the search for a downed jetliner to an area the size of Alaska in the southern Indian Ocean, while Australia said improved weather would allow the hunt for possible debris from the plane to resume.

The comments from Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein came a day after the country’s prime minister announced that a new analysis of satellite data confirmed the plane had crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 aboard.

But the searchers will face a daunting task of combing a vast expanse of choppy seas for suspected remnants of the aircraft sighted earlier.

“We’re not searching for a needle in a haystack — we’re still trying to define where the haystack is,” Australia’s deputy defense chief, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, told reporters at a military base in Perth, Australia, as idled planes stood behind him.

There had been two corridors — based on rough satellite data — for the search. Hishammuddin said operations had been halted in the northern corridor that swept up from Malaysia toward Central Asia, as well as in the northern section of the southern corridor that arches down from Malaysia toward Antarctica.

That still leaves a large area of 1.6 million square kilometers (622,000 square miles), but just 20 percent of the area that was previously being searched.

In remarks to the Malaysian Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Najib Razak cautioned that the search will take a long time and “we will have to face unexpected and extraordinary challenges.”

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