SEPANG - Maldive officials have refuted claims that the missing flight MH370 was seen flying low over a nearby atoll but the multinational teams searching for the plane are continuing to give emphasis to the more challenging southern corridor.
There are still many reports that the aircraft could have flown to the area which stretches from Indonesia to the southern edge of the Indian Ocean.
"As regards to the southern corridor, it is a vast open sea, so some degree of importance is being given to that area," Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told the daily press conference at Sama Sama Hotel.
While the southern corridor was not more "interesting" compared to the northern corridor which comprises overland territory from north Thailand to Kazakhstan, it was more challenging due to the logistics required, the acting Transport Minister said.
A number of foreign newspapers and international wires have reported that MH370 was likely to have flown to the southern corridor.
Reuters, quoting an unnamed source, said the Boeing 777-200 most likely flew into the southern Indian Ocean. This, it said, was due to a lack of evidence from countries along the northern corridor that the plane had crossed their airspace.
Hishammuddin said that he had spoken to the commander of the United States Pacific Command Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III to identify the equipment needed to locate the aircraft and its data recorder which will provide information on what happened to the missing MH370.
The minister said he had also spoken to experts involved in the search and recovery of Air France Flight 447 - which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris - to determine the kind of equipment needed if indeed MH370 had crashed into the sea.
Hishammuddin said the main technical team organising the search and rescue operation had been organised into three groups: a diplomatic team led by Wisma Putra; an assets deployment and logistics team led by the Malaysian Armed Forces; and a technical group retaining overall operational control, led by the Department of Civil Aviation.
"I can confirm that the Malaysian Chief of the Defence Force has contacted his counterpart in the Maldives, who has confirmed that the reports of the plane's sighting are not true."
On reports that additional waypoints had been added to the aircraft's flight routing computer, Hishammuddin said MH370 flew on a normal routing until the IGARI waypoint located off the coast of Kelantan.
"There is no additional waypoint on MH370's documented flight plan, which depicts normal routing all the way to Beijing."
Hishammuddin said investigators have received some radar data from several countries which may help in the search for MH370 but he could not yet reveal details about it.
"This data is sensitive to the nations and I will need their clearance before I can release them," he said.