Search efforts for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are being narrowed after new analysis indicated there was a strong probability that the wreckage lies closer to the southern boundaries of the search area, Australian authorities confirmed Wednesday. The Australian Defense Department confirmed to local news station WSBTV that the study revealed the southern area of the search region showed "the highest probability"of containing the wreckage.
Australian agencies have led the search since the airplane known as MH370 and its 239 passengers disappeared while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing March 8, 2014. The Australian Transportation and Safety Bureau dispatched two search vessels and under-water drone to scour a 46,000-square-mile region of the Indian Ocean. Two more vessels, one of which will be provided by China, will soon join the efforts, according to Australian officials.
"We are particularly grateful for this commitment from China because that will help ensure that there are adequate finances," said Warren Truss, Australian deputy prime minister.
The new study corroborated other findings commissioned by the department, according to Truss. "We remain hopeful, indeed optimistic, that we will still locate the aircraft. There's around 44,000 square kilometers yet to be searched in this new priority area," Truss said.
The search is expected to be completed by June 2016, Truss said. More than $140 million have been poured into the search efforts. A wing part called a flaperon, discovered on Réunion Island near Madagascar in late July, has been the only confirmed wreckage from MH370 identified since the plane went missing. The current search zone is around 2,500 miles east of Reunion, according to BBC.
A division of the search was halted Nov. 23 when a crew member on one of the search vessels became ill. The interruption marked the second time that month the search for the plane was suspended in response to a sick crew member.