New Info Expands Search For Missing Malaysian Flight

PERTH, Australia – Rain was expected to hamper the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet early today, as a growing number of planes focus on an expanded area of the south Indian Ocean where French radar detected potential debris.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s rescue coordination center said the search area was expanded from 22,800-26,400 square miles, including a new separate area covered by data provided by France on Sunday.

Two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 planes joined the search from Perth early today, increasing the number of aircraft from eight on Sunday to 10, AMSA said.

It said the weather in the search area, about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, was expected to deteriorate with rain likely.

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said “nothing of note” was found Sunday, which he described as a “fruitless day.”

“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll stick at it,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio before the first aircraft left Perth at dawn.

He said that the new search area based on French radar data was 530 miles north of the previous search zone. He said it was not the same area that had been identified as the most likely place where the aircraft may have entered the sea, “but … we’ve got to check out all the options.”

“We’re just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts,” he added.

A cyclone bearing down on the Australian northwest coast “could stir up less favorable weather,” he said.

Flight 370 vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search that has turned up no confirmed pieces and nothing conclusive on what happened to the jet.