The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner suffered a further setback yesterday after Australian officials said wreckage from the aircraft was not on the seabed in the area they had identified.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared from radar screens on March 8 shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.
Investigators say what little evidence they have to work with, including the loss of communications, suggests the Boeing 777 was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres from its scheduled route.
The search was narrowed last month after a series of acoustic pings thought to be from the plane's black box recorders were heard near where analysis of satellite data put its last location, about 1,600km off the northwest coast of Australia.
"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau [ATSB] has advised that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can now be considered complete and, in its professional judgment, the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370," the agency in charge of the search said.
ATSB chief Martin Dolan said he expected the team to take two to three weeks to reassess and re-analyse the data, although he was "confident" that the final resting place of the aircraft was the Indian Ocean.
"We don't know what those pings were," Dolan said. "We are still analysing those signals to understand them better."
Premier Li Keqiang urged Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday to come up with a new search plan.
"We hope the Malaysian side can play a leading and coordinating role and quickly put in a place a new search plan to find where the plane came down and seriously develop the investigation," Li said, according to Xinhua.
The discovery of the pings on April 5 and 8 was hailed as a significant breakthrough.
However, a thorough scan of the 850 sq km area around the pings with an unmanned submarine failed to find any sign of wreckage.
"We concentrated the search in that area because the pings were the best information available at the time," Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told parliament.
"We are still very confident that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern [Indian] Ocean, and along the seventh ping line," he added, referring to an arc identified by analysis of satellite communications data.
Earlier, CNN said authorities now almost universally believed the pings did not come from the plane's onboard data or cockpit voice recorders.