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No sign missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 neared Australia, says PM Abbott

Published on Mar 17, 2014 10:01 AM
 
A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency pilot studies the map onboard a Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream V Jet aircraft, customised for search and rescue operations, as they search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane over the waters of the South China Sea on March 15, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday said he had no information that missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may have come close to Australia, but conceded the incident was "deeply mysterious".

The Malaysian government has revealed the investigation into the missing jet indicates it was deliberately diverted and flew for several hours after leaving its scheduled flight path - either north towards Central Asia, or towards the southern Indian Ocean.

Asked whether Australian agencies had detected the plane close to Australia, given its western coast borders the Indian Ocean, Abbott said: "I don't have any information to that effect.

"But all of our agencies that could possibly help in this area are scouring their data to see if there's anything that they can add to the understanding of this mystery," he told reporters.

Australia has two Orion surveillance aircraft assisting with the search for the plane, which was en route to Beijing when it disappeared, and Abbott said one of those had now been redeployed to the Indian Ocean search.

"It's my intention to talk later today with the Malaysians to see whether there's additional help that Australia can offer," he said.

Abbott said the incident could lead to changes in how aircraft are tracked.

"I think that there will be a lot of analysis done of this particular event which thus far remains deeply, deeply mysterious," he said.

"And I think there will be a lot of lessons learnt, and I dare say some of those lessons will involve the tracking of aircraft."

Six Australians were on board the commercial flight carrying 239 passengers and crew which vanished on March 8 in a busy Southeast Asian sky, and relatives have clung to hope that their loved ones may still be alive.

"I haven't got a clue what is going on, but maybe they have been hijacked and that gives me hope," David Lawton, whose brother Bob was aboard MH370, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

"In this day and age and the technology we have you would think they would be able to find it, but no, apparently they can't.

"I don't blame anybody for it, I just want to know what their fate was," he added.

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