Australia says hunt for missing Malaysian plane progressing but likely to take many months

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in a remote patch of the Indian Ocean is progressing well but will likely take many months because of the huge area involved, an Australian official said Friday.

Peter Foley, an Australian search coordinator, said there is optimism with two ships using high-tech sonar devices to search for the Boeing 777, which disappeared in March while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

He said weather is improving and they hope to cover as much area as possible.

"We could get extraordinarily lucky and find it very early," Foley told reporters after two days of talks with Malaysian authorities.

"We could find the debris field any day but the likelihood given the size of the area, we are in for the long haul. It will take many months," he said.

Despite a massive air and sea search, not a single confirmed piece of debris from the plane has been found.

The ship Discovery, provided by Dutch contractor Fugro, arrived Wednesday at the search zone about 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) west of Australia. The GO Phoenix, a Malaysian ship that has been combing the area since early October, is in the Western Australian city of Fremantle getting fresh supplies.

A third ship, the Fugro Equator, is still mapping areas in the search zone and will join the hunt once that is complete, likely in the next week or so.

The search resumed in early October after being on hold for four months while crews mapped the seabed in the 60,000-square kilometer (23,000-square mile) search zone. The GO Phoenix has searched over 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) so far.

Australian officials earlier said the search could take up to a year.

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