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Australia checking for 2 objects in search for plane

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- An air search in the southern Indian Ocean for possible objects from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane described as the "best lead" so far ended for the day without success Thursday but will resume in the morning, Australian rescue officials said.

The four planes were checking to see if two large objects spotted in satellite imagery bobbing in the remote ocean were debris from Fight 370 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board.

One of the objects was 24 meters (almost 80 feet) in length and the other was 5 meters (15 feet). There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia's southwestern coast, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division.

Possible MH370 Debris Spotted In Indian Ocean

"This is a lead, it's probably the best lead we have right now," Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although the larger object is longer than a container.

A statement from the authority said the four planes searched an area of 23,000 square kilometers (8,800 square miles) about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth on Thursday without success. The area is about halfway between Australia and desolate islands off the Antarctic.

"The search will continue on Friday," it said. It earlier said the search had been hampered by low visibility caused by clouds and rain.

News that possible plane parts had been found marked a new phase in the emotional roller coaster for distraught relatives of the passengers, who have criticized Malaysia harshly for not releasing timely information about the plane. While they still hope their loved ones will somehow be found, they acknowledged that news of the debris could mean the plane plunged into the ocean.

"If it turns out that it is truly MH370 then we will accept that fate," said Selamat Bin Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger on the jet, which carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals.

But he cautioned that relatives still "do not yet know for sure whether this is indeed MH370 or something else. Therefore we are still waiting for further notice from the Australian government."

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference Thursday that "for all the families around the world, the one piece of information that they want most is the information we just don't have - the location of MH370."

Malaysian officials held a meeting Thursday night with the relatives in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away. The family members walked into the meeting with sad faces and one Malay man with two children said "no pictures please." No details of the meeting were released. A group of officials also flew to Beijing on Thursday night to meet families there.

Young said the depth of the ocean in the latest area, which is south from where the search had been focused since Monday, is several thousand meters (yards).

He said it may be difficult to spot the objects as they "are relatively indistinct on the imagery ... but those who are experts indicate they are credible sightings. The indication to me is of objects that are a reasonable size and probably awash with water, moving up and down over the surface."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority released two images of the whitish objects. They were taken March 16, but Australian Air Commodore John McGarry said it took time to analyze them.

"The task of analyzing imagery is quite difficult, it requires drawing down frames and going through frame by frame," he said.

An Australian C-130 Hercules plane dropped marker buoys in the area to aid in the search.

But some analysts said the debris is most likely not pieces of Flight 370. "The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from other shipping are probably large," said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The hunt for the Boeing 777 has been punctuated by several false leads since it disappeared above the Gulf of Thailand. Oil slicks that were spotted did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be a piece of sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible plane debris, but nothing was found.

But this is the first time that possible objects have been spotted since the search area was massively expanded into two corridors, one stretching from northern Thailand into Central Asia and the other from the Strait of Malacca down to southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

Hishammuddin made clear that although international search efforts are continuing both on land and in sea in the northern and southern hemispheres, the effort is mostly concentrated south of the equator over the vast Indian Ocean.

Out of a total of 29 aircraft, 18 ships and six ship-borne helicopters deployed in the operation, only four aircraft are now scouring the north.

Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg was rerouted and arrived at the area in the Indian Ocean where the possible wreckage was spotted.

"They (the ship) have been asked to continue the search tomorrow and they will continue tomorrow morning," Olav Sollie from Hoegh Autoliners told a news conference in Oslo.

The Norwegian ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia Sollie said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Flight 370 disappeared on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation, but have said the evidence so far suggests the plane was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

Malaysian authorities have said that files were deleted Feb. 3 from the home flight simulator of the missing plane's pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and Hishammuddin said he had no new information on efforts to recover those files.

The FBI has joined forces with Malaysian authorities in analyzing deleted data on the simulator. It was not clear whether investigators thought that deleting the files was unusual. They might hold hints of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went, or the files could have been deleted simply to clear memory for other material.


Gelineau reported from Sydney, Australia. Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk and Todd Pitman in Kuala Lumpur, Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, and Julia Gronnevet in Oslo, Norway, contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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Sheila & Eddie March 20 2014 at 9:25 AM

It may be possible the pilots were aware of an some type malfunction in the plane set it on auto pilot, and try to take of it, may have been a fire., problems worsen didn't not want to fly the plane into a population area .

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kvave March 20 2014 at 10:06 AM

And so another Goose Chase begins

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1 reply
rgkarasiewicz kvave March 20 2014 at 10:20 AM

It would be another goose chase all right as they should stick to what they know for sure.

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1 reply
atpowelljr rgkarasiewicz March 20 2014 at 10:41 AM


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phpoling March 20 2014 at 8:10 AM

Rest in Peace, 239 People on the Boeing 777

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English March 20 2014 at 12:45 PM

Late news last night lead me to believe that close-up pictures would be seen several hours later with daylight still when planes would arrive. This morning, no news? -This a Big Brother blackout?

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alfredschrader March 20 2014 at 10:07 AM

Wait a minute. They have satellite pictures but nobody knows anything ? Sounds like a cover-up.
Who was on that plane ?
A 777-200ER wingspan is 200 feet. A wing would be around 80 feet long. That far away the plane would be out of fuel and the wing would float if it was still intact.

A major problem today in searching for anything is the cost of fuel. You could easily spend a million dollars on fuel looking for this needle in a haystack.
I suggest water triggered flourescent dye-packs be installed on all over-seas aircraft.

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1 reply
jimmy alfredschrader March 20 2014 at 10:28 AM

Great idea......ain't hindsight great....!!! lol

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condiee March 20 2014 at 12:47 PM

My heart goes out to the families of the victims, and I do believe they are victims. No matter what happened those passengers are dead. I hope the mystery is soon solved because they have to be going through hell on earth. Until there is a definite resolution, it is human nature to hope.

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steve cutie March 20 2014 at 10:07 AM

I live in Florida and sail all over the world. I have seen huge pieces of metal all over the ocean and also containers that have fallen off ships that have broken apart. I do hope that this spotting in the aircraft....personally I have my doubts. It seems like all the countries of the world are trying to show they are looking for the airline.
I might be nuts but that plane has landed in some country. The flying pattern was to precise for it to have crashed unless it was hijacked. In all respect if it is the aircraft I send my Blessings to the families of the passengers that died.

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4 replies
m0rningangel1 March 20 2014 at 7:57 AM

This one has been tough on the family and friends of people that were on the flight. My prayers go out to all of them..there is still no positive id so they are still just waiting for word. Sad situation all the way around.

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bryanmerrittper2 March 20 2014 at 10:11 AM

It could be almost anything, lots of junk gets thrown overboard off of cargo ships it could be many things we will have to wait to find out when they find it and recover it what ever it is. I was hoping the passengers were still alive somehow but that is not likely. I would like to see closure to this one way or another I am tired of people speculating all kinds of theory's on the news what they think could have happened. The fact is no one knows for sure what happened and if or until they find the plane and or the wreckage and the black boxes we may never know. I understand the Indian ocean where these pictures were taken is very deep and recovery may be very difficult if not impossible.

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PERFORATOR March 20 2014 at 10:15 AM

"It's bluefish Chief, it's just bluefish!"

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