Seabed search for missing Malaysian jet to widen

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Seabed search for missing Malaysian jet to widen
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10 : A handout image released by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) in Canberra, Australia, 10 April 2014, shows the search area in the Indian Ocean, West of Australia, where 14 planes and 13 ships are scouring a 57,923 square km area of ocean for the wreckage of flight MH370 on 10 April 2014. Flight MH370 went missing after losing radio contact with Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8. The Beijing-bound flight carried 239 passengers including 12 flight crew from 14 different countries. (Photo by AMSA/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Angus Houston (2nd-L), head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaks at a media conference in Perth on April 9, 2014. Australian ship Ocean Shield detected two more signals on April 8 to match a pair of transmissions picked up earlier in the week that have been analysed as consistent with flight data recorder emissions, Houston said. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 08: Defence Minister David Johnston (R) responds to a reporters question together with Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (Ret'd) during a press conference over the continuing search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce on April 8, 2014 in Perth, Australia. ACM Angus Houston advised the towed pinger by ADV Ocean Shield is still trying to re-locate the signals previously detected, which were believed to be consistent with aircraft black boxes. The airliner disappeared on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board and is suspected to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
A Chinese relative (R) of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 holds a candle as she takes part in a prayer service at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing on April 8, 2014. The hunt for physical evidence that the Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in the Indian Ocean more than three weeks ago has turned up nothing, despite a massive operation involving seven countries and repeated sightings of suspected debris. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)
Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, points to a graphic of the search area during a media conference in Perth on April 7, 2014. An Australian navy ship has detected new underwater signals consistent with aircraft black boxes, Houston said on April 7, describing it as the 'most promising lead' so far in the month-old hunt for missing Flight MH370. AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)


CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - The seabed search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is set to widen as a sonar scan of the most likely crash site deep beneath the Indian Ocean nears completion without yielding a single clue, authorities said on Friday.

Meanwhile in Beijing, about 50 relatives of Chinese passengers on the plane on Friday continued a sit-in protest outside the Malaysian embassy after officials failed to show up to update them on the search.

The Australian search coordination center said a robotic submarine had scanned 95 percent of a 310-square-kilometer (120-square-mile) search area since last week but had found nothing of interest. The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 is creating a three-dimensional sonar map of the ocean floor near where signals consistent with airplane black boxes were heard on April 8.

The search area is a circle with a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) deep off the west Australian coast. The search of the target area is scheduled to be completed within days.

"If no contacts of interest are made, Bluefin 21 will continue to examine the areas adjacent to the 10-kilometer radius," the center said in a statement.

"We are currently consulting very closely with our international partners on the best way to continue the search into the future," it added, referring to Malaysia, United States and China.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told CNN on Thursday that his government will release a preliminary report on the plane's disappearance next week.

The report has already been sent to the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization, but has yet to be made available to the public, CNN reported.

Malaysia PM Raza: 'We're Committed to the Flight MH370 Search'

The Malaysian government, which has primary responsibility for the investigation, has been accused of mismanaging the search, concealing information about the tragedy and of being too slow to update families of the missing on developments.

In Beijing, the relatives had marched to the Malaysian embassy from their hotel Thursday night after Malaysian officials failed to show up for a promised briefing.

"We keep on waiting because we want the news," said Steve Wang, whose parents were aboard the flight and who has served as a representative for the relatives.

"What we are concerned about is where is the plane, and where are our loved ones," Wang said.

Some relatives scuffled with police officers who tried to prevent them leaving the hotel. On Friday morning, more than 100 police and paramilitary officers had cordoned off the area around the embassy in a northeastern diplomatic district that is also home to the U.S. Embassy.

Wang said the relatives felt slighted by the failure of the Malaysian officials to appear for the briefing. A number of Chinese relatives have refused to accept the theory that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean and insist that Malaysian officials have not told them the truth about the plane's disappearance.

Australian Defense Minister David Johnston said this week that an announcement was likely next week on the next phase of the search for the Boeing 777 which vanished with 239 passengers and crew - mostly Chinese - on board on March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

He said the next phase was likely to deploy more powerful side-scan sonar equipment that can delve deeper than the Bluefin 21.

On Friday, up to 8 planes and 10 ships were to search for debris over a 49,000 square kilometer (19,000 square mile) ocean expanse 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) northwest of the city of Perth where the search is headquartered, the center said.


Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

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