NEW DELHI (AP) — Massive Indian navy and air search operations for the missing Malaysian aircraft were suspended Sunday until fresh search areas are identified by the Malaysian government, an official said.
Col. Harmit Singh, spokesman for India’s tri-services command, said coast guard ships have reverted to routine surveillance in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
“Air and sea operations for today have been put on hold,” Singh said.
The Indian navy and air force’s coordinated search for the last three days has so far covered more than 250,000 square kilometers (100,579 square miles) in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal without any sighting of the Boeing 777 and 239 people aboard.
It disappeared more than a week ago after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur on the way to Beijing.
Another government official said that Indian and Malaysian officials were scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur later Sunday to refine search coordinates.
The future course of search efforts is expected to be worked out at this meeting, the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Nearly a dozen Indian ships, patrol vessels, surveillance aircraft and helicopters had scoured the region. India intensified the search on Saturday by deploying two recently acquired P8i long-range maritime patrol and one C- 130J Hercules aircraft. A short-range maritime reconnaissance Dornier aircraft was also deployed.
Vinod Patney, a retired air force officer, said it was unlikely – but not impossible – for an aircraft to intrude a country’s airspace undetected.
Officials said there was an effective radar coverage in the region as a large number of flights between Europe and Southeast Asian use this route. Also, India has tightened security in the area as it is a strategic shipping lane for oil tankers.