PERTH/KUALA LUMPUR — New satellite images have revealed more than 100 objects in the southern Indian Ocean that could be debris from a Malaysian jetliner missing for 18 days with 239 people on board, Malaysia’s acting transport minister said on Wednesday (26/03/2014).
The latest sighting came as searchers stepped up efforts to find some trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, thought to have crashed on March 8 after flying thousands of miles off course.
“It must be emphasized that we cannot tell whether the potential objects are from MH370,” Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference. “Nevertheless, this is another new lead that will help direct the search operation.” The images were captured by France-based Airbus Defence & Space on Monday and showed 122 potential objects in a 400 sq km (155 sq mile) area of ocean, Hishammuddin said. The objects varied in size from one metre to 23 metres (75 ft) in length, he said.
A dozen aircraft from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea were once more scouring the seas some 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth in the hunt for wreckage on Wednesday, after bad weather the previous day forced the suspension of the search.
“The crash zone is as close to nowhere as it’s possible to be but it’s closer to Australia than anywhere else,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, before leading the country’s parliament in a moment’s silence.
“A considerable amount of debris has been sighted in the area where the flight was last recorded. Bad weather and inaccessibility has so far prevented any of it from being recovered. But we are confident that it will be.” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak this week confirmed Flight MH370, which vanished while flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
Citing satellite-data analysis by British company Inmarsat , he said there was no doubt the Boeing 777 came down in one of the most remote places on Earth — an implicit admission that everyone on board had died.
Recovery of wreckage could unlock clues about why and how the plane had diverted so far off course in one of aviation’s most puzzling mysteries. Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.
Australia, China and France have all released satellite images over the past week showing possible debris in the same general area as the latest sighting, but no confirmed wreckage has been located.
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An Australian navy ship returned to the area after being driven away by gale force winds and 20-metre (66 ft) waves on Tuesday, while a Chinese icebreaker and three Chinese navy vessels were now in the search zone.
Two Chinese ships were looking for a two-metre floating object spotted earlier in the day by an aircraft, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported.
The United States has sent an undersea Navy drone and a high-tech black box detector which will be fitted to an Australian Defence vessel due in Perth in the coming days.
The so-called black boxes — the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder — record what happens during flight, but time is running out to pick up locator beacons that stop about a month after a crash due to limited battery life. – Reuters