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Malaysia asks US for undersea surveillance in search for missing plane

Washington: Malaysia has sought undersea surveillance equipment from the US to search the missing plane that mysteriously disappeared two weeks ago with 239 people on board, the Pentagon said.

In a phone call to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Malaysia's Defence Minister and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein "requested that the US consider providing some undersea surveillance equipment", Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

Missing Malaysian Airlines plane

The call was about the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing under mysterious circumstances en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8. "Hagel assured Hishammuddin that he would assess the availability and utility of military undersea technology for such a task and provide him an update in the very near future," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

Officials did not say precisely what equipment the Pentagon might provide but the US military has invested heavily in undersea surveillance. Search teams involving 26 countries are still trying to locate flight MH370, which went missing an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board, including five Indians and one Indian-Canadian.

According to the Pentagon, search of the missing plane could cost it USD four million. "As of now, we've set aside USD 4 million to aid in the search. Based on our current expenditures, we expect these funds will last until sometime in the beginning of April," Pentagon spokesperson Army Col Steve Warren told reporters.

The total cost for supporting the plane search is now USD 2.5 million. This includes operating costs of the ships and aircraft currently supporting the search, Warren added. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the US is providing assistance to the Malaysian government in its investigation and in its search for the missing plane.

"We have not here in the US reached any conclusions about what happened to the plane or where it is. We are, as part of that investigation that s being led by the Malaysian government, engaged in an effort to try to look at different scenarios and make decisions about and conclusions about what happened. But we are not there, by any means," he said.

"This is obviously a challenging situation for Malaysia and for everyone participating in the investigation and the search. On the other one, one man's breaking news is another man s news of the day, I would say. I'm not sure that means anything. I've got to go in a few minutes. I'm not going to wade into that debate," Carney said.

The mystery of the missing plane continued to baffle aviation and security authorities, who have so far not succeeded in tracking the aircraft despite deploying hi-tech radar and other gadgets.

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