The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Australia plans to spend $84 million on search for Malaysian airliner, budget documents show

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CANBERRA, Australia - The Australian government plans to spend 90 million Australian dollars ($84 million) on the search for the missing Malaysian plane.

Australia is leading the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which is thought to have disappeared in the Indian Ocean with 239 people aboard on March 8. Documents released Tuesday showed that the government has budgeted AU$90 million for the search in the current fiscal year through June and next fiscal year.

"The actual cost will depend on a number of factors, including the outcome of procurement processes for specialist services, the length of the search and the extent of contributions from other countries," the budget documents said.

Countries involved in a multinational air and sea search based in the western city of Perth covered their own costs.

But the search is moving into a second phase in which commercial underwater operators will be contracted to scour a vast expanse of seabed with sonar equipment looking for wreckage. That phase is expected to start next month and continue for eight to 12 months.

The documents put no limit on what Australia is prepared to spend.

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