Malaysia considers theory that Flight 370 may be in Bay of Bengal

(CNN) -- Days after authorities dismissed the idea that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may be in the Bay of Bengal, a top Malaysian official said Friday he is considering sending a ship there.

Acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the tip could be confirmed only by sending vessels to the area, which is thousands of kilometers away from the official search area in the southern Indian Ocean.

"But I just want to stress that by doing that, we are distracting ourselves from the main search," he said Friday. "And in the event that the result from the search is negative, who is going to be responsible for that loss of time?"

Hishammuddin said the chance of finding Flight 370 in the Bay of Bengal is "highly unlikely," but he has not yet decided whether to send a vessel there.

His comments came three days after the Australian company GeoResonance publicized its claim that it may have found the wreckage of a plane in the bay.

While GeoResonance said it's not sure whether the debris is from Flight 370, the company said it has been pressing officials to take a look.

But the chief coordinator of the international search effort said he's convinced the current search area is correct.

"I am confident that the area in the southern (Indian) Ocean is the right search area, and I'm sure that in ... some time, we'll find the aircraft in that area of the Indian Ocean," chief coordinator Angus Houston said Friday.

He said three Bangladeshi naval ships have arrived in the Bay of Bengal to investigate. So far, Houston said, the ships have found nothing.

Houston said the search for the plane, which was carrying 239 people when it disappeared on March 8, may take eight to 12 months.

The Bluefin-21 drone finished its 18th underwater mission and found no debris of interest on the Indian Ocean floor, search officials said Friday.

The drone's search area was set based on the findings of another device, a towed pinger locator, which had detected signals that officials believed were from the jet's flight data recorders.

But no debris from the plane has been found.

The search is entering a new phase, Hishammuddin said Friday. He said officials have had detailed talks with several Malaysian companies about deploying specialized assets such as deep-water towed side-scan sonars and remotely operated vehicles to join in the new phase of the mission.


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