India searching uninhabited isles for Malaysia jet

NEW DELHI (AP) India used heat sensors on flights over hundreds of uninhabited Andaman Sea islands Friday and will expand its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet farther west into the Bay of Bengal, officials said.

Two Indian air force reconnaissance planes flew over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands after they and two naval ships and two coast guard vessels scoured the surrounding seas without finding evidence of the plane, according to spokesman Col. Harmit Singh of India’s Tri-Services Command on the territory.

The Indian-controlled archipelago that stretches south of Myanmar contains 572 islands covering an area of 720-by-52 kilometers. Only 37 are inhabited, with the rest covered in dense forests.

The island chain has four airstrips, but only the main airport in Port Blair can handle a large commercial jet.

As there was no headway so far, the Malaysian authorities on Friday suggested a new search area of 9,000 square kilometers (3,474 square miles) along the Chennai coast in the Bay of Bengal, India’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The search will be undertaken by India’s eastern naval command, the statement said.

Singh declined to give details about the rest of the search operation, including the use of technologies such as the heat sensors aboard the Dornier planes.

Coast Guard official V.S.R. Murthy said India would turn its focus toward western waters between the islands and the Indian coast. On Friday, two navy ships were still sailing east of Great Nicobar Island.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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