Two objects possibly related to the Malaysian airliner that went missing March 8 have been spotted, with the large one about 24 metres long, Australian authorities said Thursday.
“The objects are relatively indistinct. The indication to me is of objects that are of a reasonable size and probably awash with water and bobbing up and down over the surface,” Xinhua quoted Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) official John Young as saying at a press conference here.
“The largest… was assessed as being 24 metres. There is another one that is smaller than that,” he added. Young said that Australia has an aircraft on the scene to confirm the objects, with more ships and planes on the way to the area in the southern Indian Ocean where the objects were spotted by satellites.
He said that the suspicious objects were found to be 2,500 km southwest of Perth, the capital of Western Australia state, and their rough position is consistent with the search route. But it would be difficult to locate the objects due to poor visibility, he said, describing the latest development as the “best lead we have”.
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.
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. Earlier Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that objects possibly related to the missing jet have been found in the southern Indian Ocean.
Addressing parliament, Abbott said new satellite images show two possible objects in the ocean and an Australian Orion aircraft is on its way to the area. New and credible information had come to light in relation to the search, the prime minister said.
“Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified,” Abbott said. “We must keep in mind the task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult and it may turn out that they are not related to the search for flight MH370.”
The Australian prime minister also said he had informed his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak about the new developments. In Kuala Lumpur, a Malaysian official said in a statement that Prime Minister Najib Razak received a call from his Australian counterpart at 10 a.m. Thursday, informing him that “two possible objects related to the search for” MH370 had been identified in the southern Indian Ocean.
“The Australian high commissioner (to Malaysia) has also briefed me on the situation,” Hishammuddin Hussein, minister of defence and acting minister of transport of Malaysia, said in the statement. A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orion was dispatched Thursday by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)’s Rescue Coordination Centre Australia (RCC Australia) after AMSA reported the two objects.
The Orion is being followed by three other vessels and will arrive at the location within the next few hours. Extensive search activities have continued throughout Thursday in the southern Indian Ocean within the Australian Search and Rescue Region. Five merchant ships responded to a broadcast to shipping issued by RCC Australia Monday night.
Four merchant ships have transited through the area over the past two days with a fifth ship expected to arrive in the area. Xinhua has been told by an AMSA spokesman of the area’s extreme remoteness. “It is a challenging search operation and AMSA continues to hold grave fears for the passengers and crew on board the missing flight,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.