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Malaysia says search for downed plane to shift to smaller area in south Indian Ocean

Tuesday - 3/25/2014, 8:59am  ET

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia says it has narrowed the search for a downed jetliner to an area the size of Alaska in the southern Indian Ocean.

The comments from the country's defense minister come a day after the prime minister announced that a new analysis of satellite data confirmed the plane had crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 aboard.

The new search area is 622,000 square miles, just 20 percent of the area that was previously being searched. But searchers still face a daunting task of combing a vast expanse of choppy seas for suspected remnants of the aircraft sighted earlier. Australia's deputy defense chief says the task is "not searching for a needle in a haystack," but "trying to define where the haystack is."

Gale-force winds, heavy rain and swelling seas brought the search to a halt today, but Australia says improved weather should allow the hunt for possible debris from the plane to resume Wednesday.

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146-a-07-(Jayden Burrows, relative of missing passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight, at news conference)-"friends and family"-Jayden Burrows, whose mother and father were onboard the missing flight, says his parents' lives have been cut short. COURTESY: Australian Broadcasting Corporation AuBC ((mandatory on-air credit) (25 Mar 2014)

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142-a-15-(Hishammuddin Hussein, acting transport minister, at news conference)-"close to Indonesia"-Malaysia's acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein says a technical analysis of faint signals sent from the plane to a satellite has narrowed down the area where it likely went down. (25 Mar 2014)

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145-a-11-(Jayden Burrows, relative of missing passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight, at news conference)-"onboard the flight"-Jayden Burrows, whose mother and father were onboard the missing flight, says he appreciates the international effort to find the missing jet. COURTESY: Australian Broadcasting Corporation AuBC ((mandatory on-air credit) (25 Mar 2014)

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143-a-19-(Hishammuddin Hussein, acting transport minister, at news conference)-"28th of March"-Malaysia's acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the hunt for the plane's "black box" will begin soon. ((note length of cut)) (25 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO XTOK102: FILE - In this March 21, 2014 file photo, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force's Capt. Junichi Tanoue, left, co-pilot Ryutaro Hamahira, second from left, and engineer Noriyuki Yamanouchi, second from right, scan the ocean aboard a C130 aircraft while it flies over the southern search area in the southeastern Indian Ocean, 200 to 300 kilometers (124 to 186 miles) south of Sumatra, Indonesia. Not one object has been recovered from the missing airliner that Malaysian officials are now convinced plunged into the southern Indian Ocean 17 days ago. Some of the pieces are likely 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) underwater. Others are bobbing in a fickle system of currents that one oceanographer compares to a pinball machine. And by now, they could easily be hundreds of kilometers (miles) away from each other. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda, File) (21 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO XTOK101: FILE - In this March 22, 2014 file photo, Sgt. Matthew Falanga on board a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in southern Indian Ocean, Australia. Not one object has been recovered from the missing airliner that Malaysian officials are now convinced plunged into the southern Indian Ocean 17 days ago. Some of the pieces are likely 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) underwater. Others are bobbing in a fickle system of currents that one oceanographer compares to a pinball machine. And by now, they could easily be hundreds of kilometers (miles) away from each other. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File) (22 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO XRG108: Ground crew watch as a Royal Australia Air Force AP-3C Orion runs its engines for maintenance during a no fly day in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in Perth, Australia, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. All search and rescue flights were canceled for today due to bad wether in the search area.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith) (25 Mar 2014)

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