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MH370: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight sea bed search will shift hundreds of miles south

Teams have returned to existing satellite data to map out a new search area

The next phase of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will focus on an area of the Indian Ocean hundreds miles south of the first suspected crash site.

Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said an announcement would be made next week on exactly where a 23,000 square-mile search of the ocean floor for wreckage, using powerful sonar equipment, will be focused.

The jetliner disappeared with 239 passengers and crew on board after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing, on March 8. No trace of the Boeing 777 has ever been found.

The new search site will be south of where a remote-controlled underwater drone scoured the sea bed, where acoustic signals suspected to have come from the plane's black boxes were thought to have emanated.

Experts have since concluded that the 'pings' being heard must be coming from another unrelated source, and have focused on analysing the initial satellite data to determine a new search area.

“All the trends of this analysis will move the search area south of where it was,” Mr Dolan said. “Just how much south is something that we’re still working on.”

The hunt for the plane has become the most expensive and extensive aviation search effort in history.

Earlier this week UK based firm Inmarsat told the BBC it had identified a potential "hotspot"  as to where the plane may have crashed in an area southwest of the most recent underwater search region.

On Monday, relatives of those still missing mark 100 days since the flight's disappearance by visiting a Buddhist temple in Beijing to pray for their return.

The Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also paid tribute to those still missing, with the tweet: “On this hundredth day since #MH370 went missing, remembering those on-board & their families. Malaysia remains committed to the search effort.”

Families of the missing passengers and crew have also just starting receiving initial $50,000 compensation payouts from the airline's insurer.

Additional reporting by agencies