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Chinese vessels set out for new search areas

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-03-19 04:26

BEIJING - Chinese vessels will set out at 8 am on Wednesday for new search areas to hunt the Malaysian Airlines jetliner which went missing 11 days ago after Malaysia announced to further expand the search.

Nine vessels, including China's largest rescue ship Haixun 01, will sail off from Singapore to waters southeast of the Bay of Bengal and west of Indonesia, covering an area of 300,000 square kilometers, said the national maritime search and rescue center.

Efforts will focus on waters near Sumatra away from regions being searched by other countries, said Zhuo Li, vice director of the center.

According to the plan, four vessels heading north will pass through Strait of Malacca to reach the Bay of Bengal, while five others will travel south passing the Sunda Strait.

The newly-added search areas were decided based on the two possible flight directions made by the jetliner as the Malaysian government announced.

The expanded search areas - almost as large as Australia - encompass a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

In an interview with Xinhua, China's Navy spokesman Liang Yang said that the country's naval vessels on standby in the Gulf of Thailand headed north of the Singapore Strait on Monday evening and divided into two groups on Tuesday noon.

The Jinggangshan amphibious docking vessel led a fleet through the Malacca Strait and into waters west of the Andaman Islands. Another fleet consisting of supply ship Qiandaohu, missile destroyer Haikou and amphibious transport dock Kunlunshan was heading for waters southwest of the Sumatra through the Sunda Strait, Liang said.

He noted the search faced difficulties. The depth of the sea exceeds 4,000 meters and the reflection from the seabed interferes with sonar.

Liang said that the navy would reinforce communication with authorities and keep adjusting the search.

At Kuala Lumpur, Chinese ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang said Tuesday that background checks on all passengers from the Chinese mainland on board the missing flight had found no evidence of links to sabotage or terrorism.

Those passengers could now be cleared of suspicion in principle, he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing on Tuesday that China has deployed more than ten vessels and 21 satellites to search for the missing jetliner.

He called on Malaysia to provide comprehensive and accurate information regarding the search area and come up with solutions

"We believe search and investigation should go hand in hand," Hong said."As long as the work helps with the search, China will actively coordinate."

By Tuesday, 26 countries were searching for the plane, compared with 14 last week. But the multinational search has failed to determine the jetliner's whereabouts so far, and what happened to the plane remains a mystery.

The plane went missing on its way to Beijing on March 8, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, including 154 Chinese.

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