Malaysia: Files were deleted from flight simulator in missing pilot's home
Hishamuddin announced that a delegation of Malaysian government officials, diplomats, air force and civil aviation officials will head to Beijing — where many of the passengers' relatives are gathered — to give briefings to the next of kin on the status of the search.
Aircraft from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand on Wednesday scoured a search area stretching across 305,000 square kilometers (117,000 square miles) of the Indian Ocean, about 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) southwest of Perth, on Australia's west coast. Merchant ships were also asked to look for any trace of the plane.
Nothing has been found, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.
China has said it was reviewing radar data and deployed 21 satellites to search the northern corridor, although it is considered less likely that the plane could have taken that route without being detected by military radar systems of the countries in that region.
Those searches so far have turned up no trace of the plane, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said Indonesia military radar didn't pick up any signs of Flight 370 on the day the plane went missing. He said Malaysia had asked Indonesia to intensify the search in its assigned zone in the Indian Ocean west of Sumatra, but said his air force was strained in the task.
"We will do our utmost. We will do our best. But you do have to understand our limitations," Purnomo said.
Hishammuddin said both the southern and the northern sections of the search area were important, but that "some priority was being given to that (southern) area." He didn't elaborate.
Malaysian investigators say the plane departed 12:41 a.m. on March 8 and headed northeast toward Beijing over the Gulf of Thailand, but that it turned back after the final words were heard from the cockpit. Malaysian military radar data places the plane west of Malaysia in the Strait of Malacca at 2:14 a.m.
Thailand divulged new radar data Tuesday that appeared to corroborate Malaysian data showing the plane crossing back across Peninsular Malaysia.
The military in the Maldives, a remote Indian Ocean island nation, confirmed to Malaysia that reports of a sighting of the plane by villagers there were "not true," the Malaysian defense minister said.
German insurance company Allianz said Wednesday that it has made initial payments in connection with the missing plane. Spokesman Hugo Kidston declined to say how much had been paid, but said it was in line with contractual obligations when an aircraft is reported as missing.
Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk, Satish Cheney and Chris Brummitt in Kuala Lumpur, Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Australia, contributed to this report.
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