Australia: ‘Credible lead’ shifts jet search area

PERTH, Australia (AP) — The search zone for the Malaysia airliner that crashed in the Indian Ocean nearly three weeks ago has shifted 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) to the northeast of where planes and ships had been looking for possible debris because of a ‘‘new credible lead,’’ Australia said Friday.

The revised search area comes as the weather cleared enough Friday to allow planes to hunt for fresh clues to the fate of the plane carrying 239 people that went missing March 8.

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The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the change came after updated the new information is based on continuing analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before radar contact was lost with the Boeing 777.

It said the analysis indicated the aircraft was travelling faster than previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel use and reducing the possible distance the aircraft could have flown into the Indian Ocean.

The new area is 319,000 square kilometers (123,000 square miles) and about 1,850 kilometers (1,250 miles) west of Perth, Australia, the launching area for the search. The pervious search area was more southwest and about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) from Perth.

‘‘This is a credible new lead and will be thoroughly investigated today,’’ Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Friday.

‘‘This is an extraordinarily difficult search, and an agonizing wait for family and friends of the passengers and crew,’’ he said. ‘‘We owe it to them to follow every credible lead and to keep the public informed of significant new developments. That is what we are doing.’’