Jet hunt: Day's search ends with sighting of 'objects'

Jet hunt: Day's search ends with sighting of 'objects'

The search for the missing Malaysian airliner ended Saturday in the southern Indian Ocean with the sighting of some objects with the naked eye even as China said that one of its satellites has spotted an object in the search area.

"During Saturday's search activities a civil aircraft tasked by AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) reported sighting a number of small objects with the naked eye, including a wooden pallet, within a radius of five km," AMSA said in its latest update Saturday night on the search operation that is being conducted 2,500 km southwest of Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

"A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion aircraft with specialist electro-optic observation equipment was diverted to the location, arriving after the first aircraft left but only reported sighting clumps of seaweed," it said.

It said the RNZAF Orion dropped a datum marker buoy to track the movement of the material and  a merchant ship in the area has been tasked to relocate and seek to identify the material.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

The passenger manifesto named five Indians on board as Vinod Koelkar, Chetana Koelkar, Swanand Koelkar, Chandrika Sharma and Kranti Shirsath.

The AMSA statement said the search area experienced good weather conditions Saturday with visibility of around 10 km and moderate seas.

"The Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, two chartered civil aircraft and two merchant ships supported Saturday's search effort in a 36,000 sq km search area in the Australian Search and Rescue Region," it said.

Earlier Saturday, acting Prime Minister of Australia Warren Truss said that the suspicious objects spotted by the Australian satellite in the southern Indian Ocean remained "the best lead" in the massive search for the airliner.

The objects might have either drifted or sunk, but "if there's something to be found, I'm confident this search will find it", Truss told a press conference. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is currently on an official visit to Papua New Guinea.

The hunt will continue "indefinitely" until "we are absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile", he said. "That day is not in sight."

In response to questions from Xinhua, he said there are many explanations for the satellite images provided by the AMSA but they remain "a very credible lead".

What Australia needed to do now was to exert all possible efforts to search for the missing plane, he said.

On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Abbott said that satellite images had spotted two objects in the southern Indian Ocean possibly related to the missing passenger jet.

Meanwhile, China said Saturday a satellite image showed a 22-metre-long, 13-metre-wide object in the southern Indian Ocean.

Captured by the high-definition earth observation satellite Gaofen-1 March 18, the image showed the object at 44 degrees, 57 minutes south latitude, and 90 degrees, 13 minutes east longitude, in the southern Indian Ocean, China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said.

The location of the suspicious object is along the southern corridor the missing Malaysia jet might have taken, and about 120 km south by west from the location of the suspicious objects an Australian satellite had found earlier, Xinhua reported citing SASTIND.

AMSA said it has received the satellite image from China showing the 22.5-metre floating object.

"AMSA has plotted the position and it falls within Saturday's search area. The object was not sighted Saturday," it said in its statement.

In another boost to the search operation, two Chinese air force planes arrived Saturday afternoon at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Pearce Airbase near Perth.

The two Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircraft will join the search operation Sunday.
Saturday's search operation was assisted by four helicopters as well as two ultra long-range jets.

"Ten State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers from Western Australia were tasked as air observers today (Saturday), along with two AMSA mission coordinators on the civilian aircraft," AMSA added in its statement.

The Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Success has also arrived in the search area joining two other merchant ships that are already in the area.

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