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Malaysian Airlines called on the families of passengers of flight MH370 Friday to return home to await word on their missing loved ones as as the search for the ill-fated plane enters a new phase.

The announcement came as the airlines prepared to release its report on the fate of MH370, which disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers aboard.

CNN says the report found that officials apparently did not notice for 17 minutes that the plane had gone off radar the night it disappeared and did not activate an official rescue operation for four hours.

An intense search involving 20 countries, hundreds of ships, planes and experts, has failed to turn up even a shred of debris from the plane, which apparently crashed into the Indian Ocean. The airline notes that the international search effort will enter a "new phase" in the coming weeks.

The airlines said in the statement on its web site that the search will be a "prolonged process" and announced that on May 7 it will close assistance centers set up to help the next-of-kin and provide them with information in the aftermath of the tragedy.

"Instead of staying in hotels, the families of MH370 are advised to receive information updates on the progress of the search and investigation and other support by Malaysia Airlines within the comfort of their own homes, with the support and care of their families and friends," the statement said.

Maylasian Airlines says that despite the intense search "we have to face the hard reality that there is still no trace of the aircraft, and the fate of the missing passengers and crew remains unknown till this day."

The airlines said it was deeply sympathetic to the "continuing unimaginable anguish, distress and hardship" suffered by the families and pledged to stay in touch with him.

The airlines also said it would make "advanced compensation payments": as soon as possible to family members "to meet their immediate economic needs."

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