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Despite frustrations, Australia not scaling back Flight 370 search

PERTH, Australia — Although it has been slow, difficult and frustrating so far, the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is nowhere near the point of being scaled back, Australia's prime minister said.

The three-week hunt for Flight 370 has turned up no sign of the Boeing 777, which vanished March 8 with 239 people bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. Ten planes and 11 ships found no sign of the missing plane in the search zone in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,150 miles west of Australia, officials said.

The search area has evolved as experts analyzed Flight 370's limited radar and satellite data, moving from the seas off Vietnam, to the waters west of Malaysia and Indonesia, and then to areas west of Australia. The search zone is now 98,000 square miles, about a 2½-hour flight from Perth.

Malaysia has been criticized for its handling of the search, particularly its communications to the media and the family. In something likely to fuel those concerns, the government changed its account of the final voice transmission from the cockpit.

In a statement late Monday, it said the final words received by ground controllers at 1:19 a.m. on March 8 were "Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero." Earlier the government said the final words were "All right, good night."

Items recovered so far were discovered to be flotsam unrelated to the Malaysian plane. Several orange-colored objects spotted by plane Sunday turned out to be fishing equipment.

Those leading the effort remain undaunted, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying Monday that officials are "well, well short" of any point where they would scale back the hunt. He said the intensity and magnitude of operations "is increasing, not decreasing."

"I'm certainly not putting a time limit on it. ... We can keep searching for quite some time to come," Abbott said at RAAF Pearce, the Perth military base coordinating the operation.

Despite frustrations, Australia not scaling back Flight 370 search 03/31/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 31, 2014 10:39pm]
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