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After plane search finds nothing, Hoegh St. Petersburg sent to search for 2 objects seen in ocean

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - A freighter used searchlights early Friday to scan rough seas in one of the remotest places on Earth after satellite images detected possible pieces from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane in the southern Indian Ocean.

In what officials called the "best lead" of the nearly two-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two objects floating about 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia and halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

The development raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.

But Australian authorities said in a statement early Friday that the search had turned up nothing so far.

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

"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.

Four military planes searched the area Thursday without success and planned to resume Friday morning, Australian officials said.

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, arrived in the area and used searchlights after dark to look for debris. It will continue the search Friday, said Ingar Skiaker of Hoegh Autoliners, speaking to reporters in Oslo.

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

Satellite imagery experts said the lead is worth investigating.

"It would be very nice if you could see a whole wing floating there, then you could say, 'OK that's an airplane.' When you're looking at something like this you can't tell what it is," said Sean O'Connor, an imagery analyst with IHS Janes.

But another analyst said the debris is most likely not pieces of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There have been several false leads since the Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

"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 development marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials 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 satellite images could mean the plane fell into the sea.

"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. The jet 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 officials met with the relatives Thursday night in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away. After the meeting, groups of people left looking distraught.

Hamid Amran, who had a child on Flight 370, said questions asked at the meeting made it "apparent that Malaysia's military is incapable of protecting its own airspace."

He said he "believes that my child and all the other passengers are still alive. I will not give up hope."

A man who would only give his surname, Lau, said he was there to support a Chinese couple who had lost their only son.

"It appears some families are slowly accepting the worst outcome," he said.

Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the relatives in Kuala Lumpur were being given updates by high-level officials "two or three times a day."

"We do take care of the next of kin, and assuming it is confirmed, that the aircraft is located somewhere close to Australian, we will obviously make arrangements to fly the next of kin there," he said.

A group of Malaysian government and airline officials flew Thursday night to Beijing to meet families there.

Young said the ocean in the search area is thousands of meters (feet) deep.

DigitalGlobe, a Longmont, Colo.-based company, said it provided the images to Australian officials. 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.

The hunt has encountered other false leads. Oil slicks that were seen did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible 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 to the southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein made it clear Thursday 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.

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.

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


Gelineau reported from Sydney, Australia. Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk and Todd Pitman in Kuala Lumpur; Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand; Holbrook Mohr in Jackson, Miss.; Raphael Satter in London; and Julia Gronnevet in Oslo, Norway, contributed to this report.

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sslorentz March 20 2014 at 10:57 PM

If the arc they are searching was based on the satellite position, what prevents the plane from flying west towards Africa? Somalia? Yemen? Couldn't it be anywhere within the arc radius? By the time they get back to the previous search areas the plane could have been refueled and flown elsewhere. If the plane was taken by one or both of the pilots and other conspirators that know how to disable the transponders and other communications equipment, it could be anywhere and undetectable by normal tracking equipment. Having been a P-3 crewman, I know with the advances in the equipment updates that they are our best hope to find anything that may be in the ocean anywhere in the world. Go Sensor!

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Grandpaw sslorentz March 20 2014 at 11:57 PM


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markshmoffice March 20 2014 at 7:29 PM

Considering all the highly-sophisticated receivers and sonar equipment installed on American and Australian Naval craft, without giving away any state secrets, what can new news blabers tell us the about submarines and the other craft on the scene? What might there capabilities offer to help in locating the missing Malaysian airliner?

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TODD March 20 2014 at 9:14 PM

I think the obvious is apparent that as more time passes on ,the less hope that there is of finding anyone on board alive,it would have to be a miracle of all miracles,but at this point ,closure would be forthcoming,but with false leads and a mountain of speculation driven by the media,the families' despair and anguish can only be understood.. I do hope the search and recovery teams of many nations will be out of harms way and return safely as they go out on their missions... Godspeed MH370

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onemissourian March 20 2014 at 7:36 PM


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Cary March 20 2014 at 9:12 PM

please lord let the people still be a live and well i ask this in his might name amen please lord let it be your will be done in this saution please let them fine the plane and end the waitting and give the people back they fmailys members all in well and good health amen

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gmaestral March 20 2014 at 7:38 PM

As a career professional pilot I'm very old school with the old style jets that are in my seventies and eighties corporate jets as they still are very reliable and with the onset the modern day hand held GPS's such as the Garmin 690 and others which work like a charm. The advancements in our avionic and aircraft equipment is mind boggling but the old stuff is great also. This new equipment has caused of fatal accidents since its onset. I believe that a computer hacker on the ground is capable of causing viruses in these jets and just for vicious fun these hackers can make their own demands to turn stuff off and take the aircraft away from the crew and do whatever they want with it. If for anything at all I feel that at least on side of the cockpit should be old style equipment and the other side the new stuff if they want it. In the near future we will see virtual cockpits meaning day or night or in zero visibility the pilots will see upon their arrival a beautiful visual day through their windshield for that entire area and approach all the way through the landing. I had this idea 25 years ago but nobody would listen.
My guess is that the plane landed somewhere safely to show the world the greatest heist ever and does anybody know what was the cargo onboard.
If it was the pilots or a pilot or a sole hijacker then he could have killed one pilot to carry out his mission as there are only 2 oxygen masks up front and they could have put them on and simply depressurize the cabin and in a few minutes they have a plane full of quite dead people then repressurize the cabin take their masks off and carry out whatever mission or heist they wanted to do. Once the cabin starts climbing above 20,000 ft nobody can live for more than the allowable time allotted with their own masks and that doesn't even take into consideration the freezing cold aircraft such as the airplane in Athens Greece about 6 years ago where everybody was frozen to death.
So even though the aircraft may have landed safely somewhere that doesn't mean the passengers are still alive because if someone is so evil to do this act I'm sure human life means nothing to them.

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onemissourian March 20 2014 at 7:39 PM


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fantastic frank onemissourian March 20 2014 at 7:41 PM


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HIEP HOI NAILS onemissourian March 20 2014 at 8:17 PM

I just received a top secret news from Intelligence Agency that the plane not carry explosives or nuclear bomb to Israel ! The plane carries a thousand tubes of swine flu ! That 's more scary !

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Anne HIEP HOI NAILS March 20 2014 at 8:24 PM

Not funny!

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keralanadu March 21 2014 at 3:02 AM

I doubt the flight is hijacked by aliens. First alien hijack on earth.

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ebneila keralanadu March 21 2014 at 4:34 AM

Actually, thousands of people vanish form the Earth every year and never a trace of them was ever found.
Read up on mysterious disappearances. Of course many have usual causes, while others remain completely unsolved

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cpassela088 March 20 2014 at 7:40 PM

God Bless Flight 370 And Their Family

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aevf101 March 20 2014 at 9:15 PM

It's time for the media to dial all this coverage back a notch. All of the "experts" guessing about the why, how and where doesn't do anything but inflame the families of the crash victims. The plane is obviosuly "gone" and so are all the souls on board. I'd perfer a moritorium on all guesses and theories until someone finds a piece of that aircraft. Let these poor people come to grips with what has happened. Give them their space and privacy.

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