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Thursday 18 September 2014

New satellite data spots 'objects'

Published 23/03/2014 | 01:57

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Ground crew members wave to a Japanese Maritime Defence Force P3C patrol plane as it heads for Australia to join a search-and-rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (AP)
Crew members board a Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force P3C patrol plane as they leave the Royal Malaysian Air Force base for Australia to join a search-and-rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight (AP)
A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion takes off at RAAF Pearce Base to join the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight (AP)

France provided new satellite data today showing possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet as searchers continued to comb a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean.

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The new information given to Malaysia's government and forwarded to searchers in Australia shows "potential objects" in the same part of the ocean where satellite images previously released by Australia and China showed objects that could be debris from the plane, Malaysia's Ministry of Transport said in a statement.

Flight 370 went missing over the Gulf of Thailand on March 8 with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search effort that has turned up nothing conclusive so far on what happened to the jet.

Today's search was frustrating because "there was cloud down to the surface and at times we were completely enclosed by cloud," Royal Australian Air Force flight Lt. Russell Adams said at the military base where the planes take off and land on their missions.

Nothing of interest to searchers was found, he said, adding that the search is worth it because "we might do 10 sorties and find nothing, but on that 11th flight when you find something and you know that you're actually contributing to some answers for somebody".

Details on the French data were not immediately released. The statement from Malaysia called the information "new satellite images," while a statement from France's Foreign Ministry said "radar echoes taken by a satellite" had located floating debris but made no mention of imagery.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said: "Any satellite images or other new information that comes to AMSA is being considered in developing the search plans."

But a Malaysian official involved in the search mission said the data located objects about 575 miles north of the spots where the objects in the images released by Australia and China were located.

One of the objects located was estimated to be about the same size as an object captured on Tuesday by the Chinese satellite that appeared to be 72 feet by 43 feet, said the official. But it was not possible to determine precise dimensions from the French data, the official said.

Information about the new data emerged as authorities coordinating the search, which is being conducted about 1,550 miles south-west of Perth, sent planes and a ship to try to "re-find" a wooden pallet that appeared to be surrounded by straps of varying lengths and colours. It was spotted on Saturday by spotters in a search plane, but no images were captured of it and a military PC Orion military plane dispatched to locate the pallet could not find it.

"So, we've gone back to that area again today to try and re-find it," said Mike Barton, chief of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's rescue coordination centre. An Australian navy ship was also involved in the search.

The southern Indian Ocean is thought to be a potential area to find the jet because Malaysian authorities have said pings sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Authorities are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board

Press Association

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