The search for the crashed Malaysian jet Friday dramatically shifted 1,100 km further northeast in the Indian Ocean and multiple objects were spotted in the new area with fresh radar data suggesting the plane flew faster and ran out of fuel more quickly than estimated.
“Five aircraft spotted multiple objects of various colours during Friday’s search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Search activities have now concluded. A total of 256,000 square kilometres was searched,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said.
“Photographic imagery of the objects was captured and will be assessed overnight. The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships,” it said in a statement.
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AMSA, coordinating the operations to locate the debris of the plane that went missing 20 days ago, said the search would now focus on an area 1,100 km further north-east in the southern Indian Ocean off the western Australian coast.
The new area is closer to land and has calmer weather than the old one, making search operations easier.
It said the new search area was about 1,850 km west of Perth and covered some 319,000 sq km.
However, this means the huge, isolated areas of the ocean that ships and planes had combed for more than a week – and where various satellites detected objects that might be debris from the missing plane – are no longer of interest.
Ten aircraft from six countries – Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States – were diverted to the new area of search operations.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion reported sighting a number of objects white or light in colour and a fishing buoy.
The plane spotted a “debris field” with several objects floating in the water, the pilot of the plane was quoted by a reporter of the China’s state-run CCTV as saying.
Following the lead, an Australian ship was rushed to the area which was expected to reach on Saturday morning.
An Australian Air Force P3 Orion relocated the objects detected by the RNZAF Orion and reported it had seen two blue/grey rectangular objects floating in the ocean.
A second RAAF P3 Orion spotted various objects of different colours in a separate part of the search area about 546 km away.
Though a number of satellites of different countries spotted floating debris fields, this is the first time a search plane spotted the objects which the captain said could be that of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370.
The Beijing-bound jetliner – carrying 239 people, including five Indians, an Indo-Canadian and 154 Chinese nationals – had vanished after taking off from Kuala Lumpur and crashed in the remote southern Indian Ocean.