Australia said on Monday that French satellite data indicating floating objects possibly related to missing Flight MH370 were outside the current search zone, while admitting to “clutching” at every piece of new information.
Malaysian authorities yesterday received details from France indicating floating objects in the area of the southern Indian Ocean being scoured for the missing Malaysian jet which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board.
The information was passed to Australian authorities who are coordinating the hunt for the plane, now focused on a remote stretch of ocean 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth.
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But Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the latest potential sighting of debris was about 850 kilometres north of where aircraft and ships have been looking since Thursday.
“Certainly the area where debris has been picked up by satellites is of particular interest, and they’re the focus of a lot of the searching,” Truss told ABC radio.
“The French sighting is I guess a piece of new material because that is in a completely different location. That is about 850 kilometres north of our current search area. “So we need to check that out as well.”
While Malaysian authorities initially said the latest data came in the form of images, France’s foreign ministry clarified this, saying it came in the form of”satellite-generated radar echoes”.
A radar echo is an electronic signal that contains information about the location and distance of the object which bounces the signal back.
Hopes of a breakthrough have been fuelled by satellite images or data captured by Australia, China, and now France in recent days, along with the visual sighting of a wooden pallet and other debris from a spotter plane on Saturday.
But Truss cautioned that “we still don’t know for certain that the aircraft is even in this area”. “We’re just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts,” he added.
Australian, US and New Zealand planes have been flying sorties searching for four days looking for the Boeing 777 and they were to be joined by Chinese and Japanese aircraft on Monday.
Truss said yesterday’s search proved “fruitless” and warned of deteriorating weather, stirred up by Tropical Cyclone Gillian which is expected to track at least 1,000 kilometres north of the search area.