IPOH - The Royal Malaysian Navy has deployed six ships in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean.
The latest naval ships joining the effort are KD Kasturi and KD Lekiu.
Speaking to reporters after seeing off the two ships at the Lumut Naval Base on Wednesday night, Vice-Admiral Datuk Abd Hadi A. Rashid said they would be joining KD Selangor, KD Kelantan, KD Terengganu and KD Pahang to search the waters south of Christmas Island.
"Our naval assets will join those from other countries involved in the search and rescue effort.
"We anticipate challenging times ahead due to the weather and vast oceans in the southern corridor, aside from the Indian Ocean reaching 7,000 metres deep," he said.
Abdul Hadi added that as the southern corridor was not a popular or strategic route for trade vessels compared to the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea information would be quite limited.
"There are a total of 560 navy personnel on board all six ships, which are being assisted by one Super Lynx and one Fennec helicopter," he said.
In a related development, India has declined China's request for permission to allow four of its warships near the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, even as it is now dispatching two aircraft to Malaysia to join the international search force that is scanning the southern Indian Ocean off Australia.
Officials on Thursday said China's request to allow its four warships, including two frigates and a salvage vessel, to enter Indian territorial waters has been "politely turned down" since Indian warships and aircraft are already searching the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea around the 572-island cluster, The Times of India reported.
An Indian P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance plane and a C-130J special operations aircraft with electro-optic and infra-red sensors joined the SAR effort yesterday.
"The Indian Navy already has four warships (INS Satpura, Sahyadari, Saryu and Batti Malv) deployed in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in continuation of the search for the jetliner. Extensive air searches are also being conducted with three aircraft (P-8I, C-130J and Dornier-228) in the area," said an officer.
United Kingdom's multi-role survey vessel HMS Echo is on its way to the southern Indian Ocean to assist in the search and rescue operation.
The British High Commission in a statement said deployment of the vessel, which can support submarine and amphibious operations, followed an offer of assistance from British Prime Minister David Cameron to Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during a telephone conversation on Tuesday.
"The UK has remained in close touch with the Malaysian and Australian authorities since the disappearance of Flight MH370 on March 8 and has offered an additional package of support," a UK foreign office spokesman said in the statement.
To date, the UK had sent two Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) representatives supported by Rolls Royce and Inmarsat advisers.
The statement said a British fisheries patrol vessel had been involved in search operations in the waters around the British Indian Ocean Territory, while UK police and relevant authorities had also helped with routine checks on the manifest of those recorded as travelling on MH370.