Malaysia has signed a deal to pay a US seabed exploration firm up to $70 million if it finds the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH370 within 90 days of embarking on a new search in the Southern Indian ocean.
The disappearance of the aircraft en route from Kuala Lumpu to Beijing in March 2014 with 239 people aboard ranks among the world's greatest aviation mysteries.
Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless $157 million search of a 120,000 sq. km area in January last year, despite investigators urging the search to be extended to a 25,000-square-km area further to the north.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said a Houston-based private firm, Ocean Infinity, would search for MH370 in that 25,000-sq-km priority area on a "no-cure, no-fee" basis, meaning it will only get paid if it finds the plane.
The search will begin on January, 17th. Its priority is to locate the wreckage or the flight and cockpit recorders, and present credible evidence to confirm their location within 90 days, Liow added.
Debris from MH370 could provide clues to events on board before the crash. There have been competing theories that the aircraft suffered mechanical failure or was intentionally flown off course.
At least three pieces of debris collected from sites on Indian Ocean islands and along Africa's east coast have been confirmed as being from the missing plane.