KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Military search planes flew over a remote part of the Indian Ocean on Thursday hunting for debris in “probably the best lead” so far in finding the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, officials said.
The four planes were checking to see if two large objects spotted in satellite imagery bobbing in the ocean were debris from Fight 370 that went missing March 8 with 239 people on board.
Australian authorities said the first plane to reach the area was unable to locate the debris through clouds and rain, but that other planes would continue the hunt.
One of the objects spotted by satellite imagery was 24 meters (almost 80 feet) in length and the other was 5 meters (15 feet). There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia’s southwestern coast, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.
“This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now,” Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although the larger object is longer than a container.
Young told a news conference in Canberra, Australia’s capital, that planes had been sent to the area about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth to check on the objects. He said satellite images “do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sighted close-up.”
Two objects have been seen that could possibly relate to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, Australian PM Tony Abbott has announced.
Australian vessels have been searching in the southern Indian Ocean for the aircraft, which disappeared on 8 March with 239 people on board.
Mr Abbott said the objects had been identified on satellite imagery.
An Orion aircraft had been sent to the area to try to locate the objects, Mr Abbott told parliament.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it lost contact with air traffic controllers.
Twenty-six nations have been involved in a major search for the missing aircraft.
“The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has received information based on satellite information of objects possibly related to the search,” Mr Abbott said.
“Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified.”
Mt Abbott warned, however, that finding the objects would be very difficult and said they could turn out to be unrelated to the aircraft.
A number of sightings of possible debris have been investigated in the search for the plane but so far none have proved to be related.
Earlier this week, Australia was asked by Malaysia to take responsibility for the “southern corridor” search.
Investigators had identified two arcs of territory – one to the north and one to the south – spanning the possible positions of the plane about seven hours after take-off.
This was based on its last faint signal to a satellite – an hourly “handshake” broadcast even when the main communication systems are switched off.
Australian PM Abbott says possible objects found in Flight 370 search
Australian PM Tony Abbott told parliament:
I would like to inform the House that new and credible information has come to light in relation to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The Australian maritime safety authority has received information based on satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search. Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified. I can inform the House that a Royal Australian Air Force Orion has been diverted to attempt to locate the objects. This Orion is expected to arrive in the area at about this time. Three more aircraft will follow this Orion, they are tasked for more intensive follow-up search. I should tell the House – and we must keep this in mind – the task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult and it may turn out that they are not related to the search for flight MH370. Nevertheless, I did want to update the House on this potentially important development.
This report compiled with information from The Associated Press.