20 Jun 2014

Search for MH370 moving south

8:40 pm on 20 June 2014

The next phase of the hunt for missing Malaysian plane MH370 will move hundreds of kilometres south, according to officials.

The search would focus on an area 1800km off the city of Perth, Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief Martin Dolan says.

Crews from around the world led by Australia's RAAF have been involved in the search.

Crews from around the world led by Australia's RAAF have been involved in the search. Photo: AFP

Nearby areas were previously surveyed from the air, but the undersea hunt was directed north after pings were heard.

The Boeing 777 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Malaysia on 8 March with 239 passengers on board.

Experts had hoped that the pings detected shortly after the plane vanished were from its flight-data recorders. But after weeks of searching the ocean floor, it was concluded that the noises were unrelated to the plane, the BBC reports.

Search teams have returned to the initial satellite data to frame the new search area.

"All the trends of this analysis will move the search area south of where it was," Mr Dolan said. "Just how much south is something that we're still working on."

They expect to make an announcement next week on exactly where the search would take place. Mr Dolan said it was unlikely the new focus would be as far from land as the aerial surveys had been.

Before teams can start looking for the plane, the seabed will be mapped. This is being carried out by Chinese and Dutch vessels.

The ocean in this part of the globe is more than 6km deep in places, and the survey is likely to take three months to complete.

Many relatives of the missing passengers have been frustrated by the lack of progress in the search.