Malaysia to Pay Firm Up to $70 Million if it Finds Missing Plane - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Malaysia to Pay Firm Up to $70 Million if it Finds Missing Plane

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Courtesy: MGN Courtesy: MGN

Malaysia says it will pay U.S. company Ocean Infinity up to $70 million if it can find the wreckage or black boxes of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 within three months.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai says there's an 85 percent chance of finding the debris in a new 25,000 square kilometers (9,653 square miles) area identified by experts.

If the mission is successful within three months, payment will be made based on the size of the area searched. Liow said the government will pay Ocean Infinity $20 million for 1,930 square miles successfully searched, $30 million for 5,790 sq. miles, $50 million for 9,653 sq. miles and $70 million if the plane or recorders are found beyond the identified area.

Ocean Infinity Chief Executive Oliver Plunkett said the search vessel Seabed Constructor, which left the South African port of Durban last week, is expected to reach the southern Indian Ocean by Jan. 17 to begin the hunt.

He said eight autonomous underwater vehicles, which are drones fitted with high-tech cameras, sonars and sensors, will be dispatched to map the seabed at a faster pace. Plunkett said the underwater drones can cover 463 sq. miles a day and complete the designated search area within a month.

The government on Thursday signed a "no cure, no fee" deal with the Houston, Texas-based company to resume the hunt for the plane that disappeared nearly four years ago. The official search in the southern Indian Ocean was called off last year.

The plane disappeared on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

Underwater wreck hunter David Mearns said the new search takes into account oceanographic models used to drastically narrow the possible locations of the crash and deploys state-of-the art underwater vehicles that will allow the company to cover far more seabed at a faster pace.

"There are no guarantees in a search of this type.  However, notwithstanding that uncertainty, this upcoming search is the best chance yet that the aircraft wreckage will be found," said Mearns, director of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd.

(The Associated Press, CBS News contributed to this report.)

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