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Ministry of Transport Malaysian Senior Accident investigator Aslam Basha Kham (C) talks to other officials inspecting a wing suspected to be a part of missing Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 discovered on the island of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer(reuters_tickers)
SYDNEY (Reuters) - An undersea search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will be delayed by up to two months because of bad weather in the Indian Ocean during the southern winter, authorities said on Wednesday.
The Boeing 777 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014 with 239 passengers and crew on board, sparking a two-and-a-half year search that has focussed on the Indian Ocean.
Authorities from Malaysia, Australia and China initially expected to finish searching a 120,000-square-km (46,000 square mile) target area by the end of 2016.
"Due to poor weather conditions over the Southern hemisphere winter, it is expected searching the entire ... area will be completed by around January/February 2017," they said in a statement.
In what has been the most expensive search in aviation history, the authorities said they had searched 110,000 square km (42,500 square miles) to date.
The search will be suspended once the target area is scoured, pending new information.
Why the aircraft went off course and came down are a mystery.
The only confirmed traces of the plane have been three pieces of debris found washed up on the island country Mauritius, the French island Reunion and an island off the coast of Tanzania.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Robert Birsel)