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SYDNEY, March 28 (Reuters) - Australian authorities said on Friday they were shifting the focus of their Indian Ocean search for the wreckage of Malaysia’s missing airliner, moving it more than 1,000 km to the north, after receiving a new clue from Malaysian investigators.
For more than a week, ships and surveillance planes have been scouring seas 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, where satellite images had suggested there could be debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
The dramatic shift in the search area was based on analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said. At that time, the Boeing 777 was making a radical diversion west from its course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
“As a result today’s search will shift to an area 1,100 km (685 miles) to the northeast based on updated advice provided by the international investigation team in Malaysia,” AMSA said in a statement.
Satellite images had shows suspected debris, including pieces as large as 24 metres (70 feet), within the original search area in the southern Indian Ocean.
An AMSA spokeswoman said she had no further information on what the debris seen in satellite images might have been or if it was related to the missing plane.
Potential debris has also been seen from search aircraft but none has been picked up or confirmed as the wreckage of Flight MH370, which disappeared from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off.
Officials believe someone on board Flight MH370 may have shut off the plane’s communications systems before flying it thousands of miles off course.
Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.
Ten aircraft and six ships were now being directed to the new area, and the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation was redirecting satellites there, AMSA said. (Reporting By Lincoln Feast; Editing by Mark Bendeich)