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Ocean Search Area For Lost Malaysian Airliner Is Set To Double

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Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss (left), Malaysia's Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai (center) and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantan shake hands after a news conference about Flight MH 370 on Thursday. The search zone for the missing
Mohd Rasfan, AFP/Getty Images
Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss (left), Malaysia's Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai (center) and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantan shake hands after a news conference about Flight MH 370 on Thursday. The search zone for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight will be doubled if nothing is found in the huge undersea area now being scanned for wreckage.

It has been more than a year since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 was lost with 239 people on board. Officials now say they'll double the already huge search area in the southern Indian Ocean to 46,000 square miles if the plane isn't found by next month.

International search teams have used aircraft and underwater scans to look for the Boeing 777 since it disappeared from flight trackers in March of 2014. A report that was released last month says the locator beacon on the plane's "black box" flight recorder had a battery that was more than a year out of date.

Despite several false alarms and a wealth of theories, no trace of the plane has been found. For perspective, the current search area of 23,000 square miles is nearly the size of the state of West Virginia. The new search area would be more like the size of Pennsylvania.

From Beijing, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports:

"Representatives of the Malaysian, Chinese and Australian governments are meeting in Kuala Lumpur. They sent a letter to family members of those aboard the plane. It says that if the current search comes up empty, they'll double the search area to about 46,000 square miles.

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"The news was welcomed by next-of-kin, some of whom worry that searchers will just give up if they don't find anything."

Officials say they've looked at around 60 percent of the current search area, according to The Wall Street Journal. The search group has committed to looking for the missing airliner for at least one more year.

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