PERTH, Australia -- The search zone for the Malaysia airliner that crashed in the Indian Ocean nearly three weeks ago has shifted 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 early today to allow planes to hunt for fresh clues to the fate of the plane carrying 239 people that went missing March 8.
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 123,000 square miles and about 1,250 miles west of Perth, Australia, the launching area for the search. The pervious search area was more southwest and about 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."
If and when any bit of wreckage from Flight 370 is recovered and identified, searchers will be able to narrow their hunt for the rest of the Boeing 777 and its flight data and cockpit voice recorders. The plane was supposed to fly from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing but turned away from its route soon after takeoff and flew for several hours before crashing.
Malaysian officials said earlier this week that satellite data confirmed the plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. On Thursday, Malaysia Airlines ran a full-page condolence advertisement with a black background in a major Malaysian newspaper.
"Our sincerest condolences go out to the loved ones of the 239 passengers, friends and colleagues. Words alone cannot express our enormous sorrow and pain," read the advertisement in the New Straits Times.
Subramaniam Gurusamy, whose son Puspanathan Subramaniam was on the flight, said at this point he seeks "closure."
"If they never find the body of the plane or anything at all, my heart will always be painful," he said in Kuala Lumpur. "I will never find the peace. I just need to know this"
Officials still don't know why Flight 370 disappeared. Investigators have ruled out nothing -- including mechanical or electrical failure, hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.
Some speculation has focused on the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, but his son, in an interview published Thursday in the New Straits Times, rejected the idea that his father might be to blame.
"I've read everything online, but I've ignored all the speculation," Ahmad Seth said. "I know my father better."