Search aircraft and ships are investigating two objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia that could be debris from a Malaysian jetliner missing for 12 days with 239 people on board, officials said on Thursday.
Australian officials said the objects were spotted by satellite four days ago in one of the remotest parts of the globe, around 2,500 km (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth in the vast oceans between Australia, southern Africa and Antarctica.
The larger of the objects measured up to 24 metres (79 ft), long and appeared to be floating on water several thousand metres deep, they said. The second object was about 5 metres (16 feet) long.
Officials cautioned it could take several days to confirm if they were parts of the missing plane.
“It’s credible enough to divert the research to this area on the basis it provides a promising lead to what might be wreckage from the debris field,” Royal Australian Air Force Air Commodore John McGarry told a news conference in Canberra.
No confirmed wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished from air traffic control screens off Malaysia’s east coast early on March 8, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
“I can confirm we have a new lead,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, where the investigation into the missing airliner is based.
Another official in Malaysia said investigators were “hopeful but cautious” about the Australian discovery.
The fate of Flight MH370 has been baffling aviation experts for nearly two weeks.
Investigators believe that someone with detailed knowledge of both the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial aviation navigation switched off the plane’s communications systems before diverting it thousands of miles off its scheduled course.
Exhaustive background checks of the passengers and crew aboard have not yielded anything that might explain why.
An Australian air force AP-3C Orion plane was already at the scene, John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), told the news conference in Canberra.
Three more aircraft were also on their way, including a New Zealand Air Force Orion and a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, the world’s most advanced maritime surveillance plane.
A merchant ship diverted for the task was also arriving in the area, Young said. A Royal Australian Navy ship equipped to recover any objects was also en route, but was still “some days away”.
China, whose citizens made up about two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight, said it was also sending ships to the area of the sighting, but it was not clear how long it would take for the vessels to continued…