Canberra, March 28: Objects possibly linked to the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been sighted from aircraft for the first time Friday in a new search area in the southern Indian Ocean but confirmation by ship can happen only by Saturday, Australian authorities said.
“RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) Orion spotted objects in #MH370 search area, identity to be established,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) tweeted, adding that the aircraft would be landing soon at Pearce Airbase near Perth and imagery was awaited.
“Sightings need confirmation by ship – not expected until tomorrow,” it also said.
Earlier Friday, the Australian authorities said that the search operation for the lost Malaysian airliner that was being conducted 2,500 km southwest of Perth was Friday shifted 1,100 km northeast following a “credible lead”.
“The AMSA search for any sign of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been shifted to an area north following advice from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB),” John Young, emergency response general manager of the AMSA, and Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the ATSB, said in a joint statement.
“An international air crash investigation team in Malaysia provided updated advice to the ATSB, which has examined the information and determined an area 1,100 km to the northeast of the existing search area is now the most credible lead as to where debris may be located,” it added.
According to the statement, the new search area is approximately 319,000 sq km and is about 1850 km west of Perth, the capital of Western Australia state.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight March 8.
The Boeing 777-200ER was scheduled to land in Beijing the same day. The 226 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.
The plane lost contact along with its radar signal when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.
At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said British investigators from its Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed flight MH370 “ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.
“Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth,” he added.
According to the AMSA-ATSB statement Friday, the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO) is re-tasking satellites to capture images of the new search area.
“Weather conditions are better in the revised area and 10 aircraft have been tasked for today’s (Friday’s) search,” the statement said. Thursday’s search operation had to be cut short due to adverse weather conditions.
Two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orions, a Japanese Coast Guard Gulfstream 5 jet, a Japanese P3 Orion, a P3 Orion and a C130 Hercules of South Korea, a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion, a Chinese air force Ilyushin IL-76, a US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft, and one civil Australian jet acting as a communications relay have been deployed for Friday’s search operation.
“Four of the 10 aircraft are overhead the search area, with a further six planes to fly over the area today,” the AMSA-ATSB statement said.
Six ships are also relocating to the new search area including the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Success and five Chinese ships.
Chinese Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) patrol ship Haixun 01 is in the search area.
Meanwhile, a US towed pinger locator and Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle have arrived in Perth to assist with location and recovery of the black box.
The depth of the water in the search area is between 2,000 and 4,000 metres.
On Thursday, over 300 new objects were spotted by satellites of Thailand and Japan in or near the earlier search area in the southern Indian Ocean.