New Delhi: Malaysian Airforce chief believes that the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 may have travelled to an area near India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands that is closer to Malaysia than the Indian mainland.
Malaysian air force chief Rodzali Daud told a news conference that an aircraft was plotted on military radar at 2.15am, 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Penang Island off Malaysia’s west coast.
It was not confirmed that the unidentified plane was Flight MH370, but Malaysia was sharing the data with international civilian and military authorities, Rodzali said.
“We are corroborating this,” he added. “We are still working with the experts, it’s an unidentified plot.”
The latest revelation underlined that authorities remain uncertain even where to look for the plane.
India on Thursday stepped up its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 239 people, deploying three ships and three aircraft to the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a Navy source said.
The defence ministry ordered deployment of the vessels and planes to scour an area east of the islands in the Andaman Sea which are closer to Myanmar and Malaysia than India, a senior navy official said.
“India has formally joined the search operations this afternoon for the missing Malaysian airliner by sending three ships,” the official said in New Delhi, adding that India was coordinating with Malaysia’s navy.
The search for the plane now encompasses both sides of peninsular Malaysia, over an area of nearly 27,000 nautical miles (more than 90,000 square kilometres) — roughly the size of Portugal — and involves the navies and air forces of multiple nations.
The Indian operation “is being conducted from the naval headquarters in New Delhi. Being a maritime search and rescue operation, the government has asked the Indian Navy to lead and conduct the operations,” the Navy official said, adding that two Dornier aircraft and one P-8I maritime surveillance plane have also been deployed.
He said the INS Saryu, INS Kumbhir and ICG Kanaklata Barua were expected to reach the search area some 111 nautical kilometres (60 miles) east of Campbell Bay, on one of the southern islands, by late on Thursday.
A dozen countries are helping Malaysia in the search, with 42 ships and 39 aircraft involved, transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.