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Jet search scours uninhabited isles

India used heat sensors to survey hundreds of uninhabited Andaman Sea islands today and will also expand its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet west into the Bay of Bengal, officials said.

Two Indian air force reconnaissance planes flew over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands after they and naval and coast guard vessels scoured the surrounding seas without finding evidence of the plane, according to spokesman Col Harmit Singh of India's Tri-Services Command on the territory.

The Indian-controlled archipelago that stretches south of Myanmar contains 572 islands covering an area of 450 miles by 32 miles. Only 37 are inhabited, with the rest covered in dense forests.

The island chain has four airstrips, but only the main airport in Port Blair can handle a large commercial jet.

As there was no headway so far, the Malaysian authorities suggested a new search area of 3,474sq miles along the Chennai coast in the Bay of Bengal, India's defence ministry said in a statement.

The search will be undertaken by India's eastern naval command, the statement said.

Mr Singh declined to give details about the rest of the search operation, including the use of technologies such as the heat sensors aboard the Dornier planes.

Coast guard official VSR Murthy said India would turn its focus towards western waters between the islands and the Indian coast.

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