MH370: Australia divides search area into east and west sectors

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

KUALA LUMPUR - Australia has divided the search area for debris from the Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane in the southern Indian Ocean into east and west sectors.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said in a press conference that twelve planes were involved in the search operations Wednesday, with six planes searching each sector.

Three Australian civilian aircraft, one Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 and two P3 Orion - one each from Australia and New Zealand were involved in operations in the east sector.

In the west sector, one civilian aircraft, one US P8 Poseidon and four P3 Orion - one from Japan, one from Korea and two from Australia were deployed.

Hishamuddin said that two ships were also involved in the search operations - the Australian Navy's HMAS Success and the Xue Long from China.

He added that a Japanese Coast Guard gulfstream aircraft left Subang this morning for Perth.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent diplomatic notes to all relevant countries to formally inform them of this change," he said.

He also conveyed his appreciation to the Australian government and the other international partners for their assistance.

Hishammuddin added that they had established an international working group based on new information by Inmarsat.

The agencies involved in this working group include Inmarsat, Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Boeing and Rolls Royce, as well as relevant Malaysian authorities.

"The role of the working group is to help try and refine the Inmarsat data, and if possible, more accurately determine the final position of MH370," said Hishamuddin.

"New satellite images continue to provide clues in the search for MH370. And with improved weather conditions, aircraft are now able to investigate objects of interest," he added.