The scouring for the crashed Malaysian jet intensified on Saturday with Chinese aircraft making fresh sightings in the new area of the Indian Ocean, even as the multination search entered its fourth week without success.
The search for the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 dramatically shifted 1,100 km further northeast in the southern Indian Ocean on Friday.
The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 01 and Chinese navy vessel Jinggangshan, which carries two helicopters, searched the area for the plane that went missing three weeks ago.
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A Chinese aircraft today spotted three unidentified floating objects coloured white, red and orange, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Five aircraft spotted multiple objects of various colours during Friday’s search.
“The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships. It is not known how much flotsam, such as from fishing activities, is ordinarily there. At least one distinctive fishing object has been identified,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said in a statement.
Search activities today involved a total of eight aircraft. They included three from Australia, two from Japan, one from New Zealand, a Chinese plane Ilyushin IL-76, and one civil jet acting as a communications relay.
Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein today told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that he has reassured the families of the missing passengers that the search for any survivors will continue.
“No matter how remote the search, I am always hoping against hope that we will find survivors,” Hishammuddin said following a meeting with the families.
He said there was no new information on the objects sighted, which could just be regular debris, or could be from the missing plane.
“I’ve got to wait to get the reports on whether they have retrieved those objects…Those will give us some indication,”
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.
Some relatives of the flight’s 153 Chinese passengers have refused to accept the Malaysian account of events and have accused officials of withholding information.
Malaysian officials have concluded that, based on satellite data, the missing plane flew into the sea somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. So far no trace of it has been found.
The Australian and Malaysian governments said yesterday the search area had been changed following further analysis of radar data that showed the plane had been traveling faster, thus burning more fuel. This would reduce the possible distance the aircraft traveled south into the Indian Ocean, officials said.
Search efforts had until yesterday morning focused on an area some 2,500 km south-west of the Australian city of Perth. The new search area is closer to land and has calmer weather than the old one, making search operations easier.
It said that 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.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told media today that a device for locating the black box will be put onto an Australian navy ship in its search for the missing plane.
“It will be taken to the most prospective search area and if there is good reason to deploy it, it will be deployed,” he said. Abbot said the black box recovery equipment will be put on a navy ship in Perth. So far, no debris had been recovered in the adjusted search area, he said.
Multiple sightings have been made till now but none have led to the wreckage of the plane.
Japanese satellite images have shown around 10 floating objects off Australia.
A Thai satellite had spotted hundreds of floating objects in southern Indian Ocean on Monday, a day after images from a
French satellite purported to show 122 such objects.
Earlier, Australian and Chinese satellites had also detected unidentified debris.