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Australia says suspected plane debris may have sunk

The international team hunting Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the remote southern Indian Ocean failed to turn up anything on Friday, and Australia's deputy prime minister said the suspected debris may have sunk.

Aircraft and ships have also renewed a search in the Andaman Sea between India and Thailand, going over areas that have already been exhaustively swept to find some clue to unlock one of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation.

(Read more: MH370: Objects sighted near Australia are 'credible')

This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the areas searched between March 18 and March 20, 2014 for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.
Getty Images
This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the areas searched between March 18 and March 20, 2014 for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

The Boeing 777 went missing almost two weeks ago off the Malaysian coast with 239 people aboard. There has been no confirmedsign of wreckage but two objects seen floating deep south in the Indian Ocean were considered a credible lead and set off a huge hunt on Thursday.

Australian authorities said the first aircraft to sweep treacherous seas on Friday about 2,500 km (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth was on its way back to base without spotting the objects picked out by satellite images five days ago.

"Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating," Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Perth. "It may have slipped to the bottom."

But the search was continuing and Australian, New Zealand and U.S. aircraft would be joined by Chinese and Japanese planes over the weekend.

"It's about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the Earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guinea, where he is on a visit.

(Read more: 'Cannot eat': Desperate wait for news on missing plane)

"Now it could just be a container that's fallen off a ship. We just don't know, but we owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle."

India said it was sending two aircraft, a Poseidon P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft and a C-130 Hercules transporter, to join the hunt in the southern Indian Ocean. It is also sending another P-8I andfour warships to search in the Andaman Sea, where the plane was last seen on military radar on March 8.

In New Delhi, officials said the search in areas around the Andaman island chain was not at the request of Malaysian authorities coordinating the global search for the airliner.

"All the navies of the world have SAR regions," said Capt. D.K. Sharma, an Indian navy spokesman, referring to search and rescue regions. "So we're doing it at our own behest."

(Read more: MH370: Timeline of latest developments)

Investigators suspect Flight MH370, which took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing shortly after midnight on March 8, was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled path. They say they are focusing on hijacking or sabotage but have not ruled out technical problems.

The search for the plane also continues in other regions, including a wide arc sweeping northward from Laos to Kazakhstan.

In the Indian Ocean, three Australian and two Japanese P-3 Orions joined a high-tech U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon and a civilian Bombardier Global Express jet to search the 23,000 square km (8,900 sq mile) zone, Australian and Malaysian authorities said.

A Norwegian merchant ship, the Hoegh St. Petersburg, was diverted to the area on Thursday and another vessel would arrive later on Friday.

An Australian navy ship was expected to arrive in the search area on Saturday and Britain's HMS Echo, a multi-purpose ocean survey vessel, was also heading to the region, Malaysia said.

China's icebreaker for Antarctic research, Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, will set off from Perth to search the area, Chinese state news

(Read more: Investigators conclude flight MH370 was hijacked)

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