CANBERRA, Australia - Authorities will focus the search for Flight MH370 in the southern part of the existing search area following the discovery of new leads, says Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.
He said authorities were able to obtain new information after the refinement of satellite data and information of a failed attempt by Malaysia Airlines ground personnel to communicate with the aircraft after it went missing.
"The search area remains the same, but the new information indicated it should be a little further to the south.
"The aircraft may have turned south earlier than we initially thought," he told a press conference after chairing the tripartite meeting between Australia, Malaysia and China here yesterday.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who was also at the press conference, said Malaysia had agreed to share the cost of A$52mil (RM153mil) for contracting an Australian vessel to carry out the deep underwater search for MH370.
"We will match Australia's commitment for the vessel and we will share the cost of the equipment for the new phase which is set to start next month. This is on top of our own contracted vessel Go Phoenix which will also be deployed to the search area next month," he said.
Liow added that Malaysia had committed A$50mil (RM147mil) since the search for the aircraft began on March 8.
"We want to assure the loved ones of the victims that we are resolute in searching for the aircraft," he added.
Truss also said that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) would lead a team for the deep underwater search, consisting of Australia's contracted vessels Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator along with Go Phoenix next month.
"The Malaysian vessel will reach the search area first in three weeks. The high resolution search of the sea floor is expected to take about 12 months," he added.
To date, more than 87,000sq km of the sea floor of the 1.1 million sq km wide area have been surveyed.
In Putrajaya, the remains of seven Malaysians and two foreigners killed in the MH17 tragedy are expected to be flown back on Sept 2, said Armed Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin.
He said the nine remains included a child and two foreign men who were married to Malaysians.
"Five of them would be placed in coffins while the ashes of the other four would be brought back in urns," he told reporters after a meeting to coordinate the ceremony to honour the victims at the Department of Civil Aviation building here.