Search planes flying deep into the southern Indian Ocean have found nothing so far that could be from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, Australia’s acting prime minister said Friday.
The planes are part of an international effort to solve the nearly 2-week-old mystery of what happened to Flight 370 and the 239 people on board. They are looking for two large floating objects detected by a satellite off the southwest coast of Australia, about halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.
“The last report I have is that nothing of particular significance has been identified in the search today but the work will continue,” said Warren Truss, who is acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is in Papua New Guinea.
Truss said the search was difficult due to testing weather conditions and because the satellite imagery was five days old. “So something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating – it may have slipped to the bottom. It’s also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometers.”
Truss told reporters that two Chinese aircraft are expected to arrive in Perth on Saturday to join the search, and two Japanese aircraft will be arriving Sunday. A small flotilla of ships coming to Australia from China was still several days away.
“We are doing all that we can, devoting all the resources we can and we will not give up until all of the options have been exhausted,” Truss said. “We can’t be certain that the sightings are in fact debris from the aircraft (but) it is about the only lead that is around at the present time.”
The search area in the southern Indian Ocean is so remote it takes aircraft four hours to fly there and four hours back, leaving them only enough fuel to search for about two hours.
Four of the five search planes sent out Friday had returned to Perth, said Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The last plane, a US P8 Poseidon aircraft, was expected back at 1100 GMT.
Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters that there had been no major new developments in the search.
“This is going to be a long haul… But like I said, the focus has always been to find the airplane, and the focus is to reduce the area of search and possible rescue,” he said.
Hishammuddin said he would be speaking to US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel later Friday “to request further specialist assets to help with the search and rescue efforts, including remotely operated vehicles for deep ocean salvage”.