Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday that the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 entered a new phase after 52 days of searching failed to find any sign of the plane wreckage.
Abbot announced that the seabed search would be expanded to a much larger area, Xinhua reported.
"If necessary, the entire probable impact zone which is roughly 700 km by 80 km," Abbott said at a press conference after US submarine drone Bluefin-21 completed a sea floor search of a focused area in the Indian Ocean and found no contacts of interest.
The focused area was defined as a circle of 10 km radius around the spot where the second suspicious signal of aircraft blackboxes was heard April 8.
Abbott said the new phase of search would be focused on the seabed of the expanded area, which would involve commercial contractors specialised in deep ocean search and may take six to eight months if weather conditions permit.
Contractual equipment could be deployed in weeks and the Bluefin-21 would continue its mission in adjacent areas, he added.
Acknowledging that it was possible to never find the ill-fated plane, Abbott vowed to continue the search as thoroughly as "humanly possible".
Up to nine military aircraft and 12 ships are planned to assist Bluefin-21's mission 16 Monday, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) Australia confirmed.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has planned a visual search area totalling approximately 54,921 sq.km.
The centre of the search area lies approximately 1,667 km northwest of Perth.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight March 8.
The Boeing 777-200ER was scheduled to land in Beijing the same morning. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.
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