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French data show possible debris from jetliner

PERTH, Australia (AP) - Rain was expected to hamper the hunt Monday for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, as a growing number of planes focus on an expanded area of the south Indian Ocean where a French satellite detected potential debris.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority's rescue coordination center said the search area was expanded from 59,000 to 68,500 square kilometers (22,800-26,400 square miles), including a new separate area because of data provided by France on Sunday.

The U.S. Pacific command said it was sending a black box locator to the region in case a debris field is located. The Towed Pinger Locator has highly sensitive listening capability so that if the wreck site is located, it can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet (6,100 meters), Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. Seventh Fleet operations officer, said in a statement.

Two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 planes joined the search from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft to 10 from eight a day earlier, AMSA said.

It said the weather in the search area, about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, was expected to deteriorate with rain likely.

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said "nothing of note" was found Sunday, which he described as a "fruitless day."

"It's going to be a challenge, but we'll stick at it," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio before the first aircraft left Perth at dawn.

He said that the latest search area based on French radar data was 850 kilometers (530 miles) north of the previous search zone. He said it was not the same area that had been identified as the most likely place where the aircraft may have entered the sea, "but ... we've got to check out all the options."

"We're just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts," he added.

A cyclone bearing down on the Australian northwest coast "could stir up less favorable weather," he said.

Flight 370 vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search that has turned up no confirmed pieces and nothing conclusive on what happened to the jet.

The latest French satellite data came to light on Sunday as Australian authorities coordinating the search sent planes and a ship to try to locate a wooden pallet that appeared to be surrounded by straps of different lengths and colors.

The pallet was spotted on Saturday from a search plane, but the spotters were unable to take photos of it.

Wooden pallets are most commonly used by ships but are also used airplane cargo holds, and an official with Malaysia Airlines said Sunday night that the flight was, in fact, carrying wooden pallets. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with company policy.

AMSA said it has requested a cargo manifest from Malaysia Airlines.

In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in an interview with The Associated Press that the satellite radar echoes "identified some debris that could be from the Malaysian Airlines plane."

The spokesman said that these echoes "are not images with a definition like a photograph, but they do allow us to identify the nature of an object and to localize it."

"The French government has decided to increase its satellite monitoring of this zone and try to obtain precise images and locations," Nadal said.

Gathering satellite echo data involves sending a beam of energy to the Earth and then analyzing it when it bounces back, according to Joseph Bermudez Jr., chief analytics officer at AllSource Analysis, a commercial satellite intelligence firm.

Satellite radar echoes can be converted into an image that would look similar to a black-and-white photo, though not as clear, he said. "You'd have to know what you're looking at," Bermudez said.

A Malaysian official involved in the search said the French data located objects about 930 kilometers (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 Tuesday by the Chinese satellite that appeared to be 22 meters (72 feet) by 13 meters (43 feet), said the official, who declined to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media. It was not possible to determine precise dimensions from the French data, the official said.

U.S. underwater wreck hunter David Mearns on Monday described the French satellite sighting of potential debris as a "positive development," although he was unaware of the full details.

Mearns was an adviser to British and French search authorities following the loss of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Brazil to Paris in 2009.

He warned that time was running out to find confirmed wreckage that could lead searchers back to the aircraft's black box. He told the AP that two satellite images of a large object spotted in the Indian Ocean two days apart could be the breakthrough needed to find the wreckage.

"The odds are still against the plane being found at the moment, but at least we have a glimmer of hope that we didn't have two days ago," Mearns said. "Right now, time is running out very quickly."

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 someone else on board.

In the U.S., Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, said on CNN: "There is no prevailing theory."

"Publicly or privately, we don't know" what happened to the plane, he said. "We're chasing down every theory."


McDonald reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associated Press writers Todd Pitman and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Cassandra Vinograd in London, and Elaine Ganley and Oleg Cetinic in Paris contributed to this report.

MH370 Update: Satellite Images Show Possible Debris

Join the discussion

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littlelayla4you March 23 2014 at 8:26 AM

My condolences to these families.

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Sparky5229 March 23 2014 at 7:27 AM

Let us know when you find it ,if you do and then let us know ,all this speculation is a joke.

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dbrianpritchett March 23 2014 at 7:23 AM

Family is going through he## for sure..But darn it..wake me up WHEN you find it.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
redroadkd March 23 2014 at 9:01 AM

So do you wonder why America isn't in it ... Well of course they are people... didn't you watch enough of 911 that they knew exactly where every plane was that day.... ALso.. we know NOW... they knew where that guy was running in behind enemy lines was ... come on ... i'm with Erin on here they flew up high enough to starve off the oxygen ... KILLING everyone on board dumping the bodies and now they have a PLANE... watch out someone...

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1 reply
Mark redroadkd March 23 2014 at 9:16 AM

Please get an education. You don't fly high to "starve off oxygen to kill people." You fly high to save fuel. The system does not work that way. In this case, flying too high affects the aerodynamic performance of the plane, thus the height restriction of 43,100 feet for cruising. Do you even know how a plane works, at least to the point of how people breath at altitude? Clearly you do not.

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2 replies
TRUMP2211 Mark March 23 2014 at 9:33 AM

Before you insult someone by telling them to get an education, you should educate yourself. According to the experts, a pilot does have control of the cabin pressure and could shut it down. Seeking a high altitude can subdue passengers and deprive them of oxygen. The drop down masks are only good for about 15 minutes of oxygen(long enough for a pilot to get the plane under 12000' altitude for passengers to breathe on their own in an emergency). The crew has access to oxygen that will last longer.
At this point people are not debating the optimum conditions for flying. Planes were not designed to fly into buildings, but 911 taught us how our enemies viewed them as weapons. Don't be naive to think our enemy hasn't also learned and adapted to counter any efforts we have made to make things safer.

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parksle2 Mark March 23 2014 at 9:46 AM

It is called dumping the cabin and shutting off bleed air.

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monza866 March 23 2014 at 7:57 AM

What we do know is there is a lot of junk in the ocean.

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mproviderone March 23 2014 at 8:59 AM

as soon as that plane hit the ocean.. every nuclear sub.. knew it hit and where it hit. why are they putting off telling us theres something their trying to find out before they let us know. they knew within an our of it landing or crashing. if they didn't the USA would have had an aircraft carrier over there. covering lot of water really fast.

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2 replies
Mark mproviderone March 23 2014 at 9:22 AM

Really? Where are the facts to support such a claim? You are typing rubbish with no basis for what you type.

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MareyAna mproviderone March 23 2014 at 9:26 AM

SO SO VERY TRUE !! YES Someone Thinks Like I Do !!! This Whole Makeup Story Is Totally Ridiculous !!! There Is Much More To This Story Then Is Being Put Out Here !! GOD KNOWS What Is Going On ??? All I Can Say Is SHAME SHAME SHAME !!! I Belive They Are Going To Make Up A Story Just To Quiet All The Families !

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SONJA FOX March 23 2014 at 7:48 AM

I wish the plane was on the ground somewhere with all on board okay. .Both Hope and wish

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1 reply
totalstudentsvcs SONJA FOX March 23 2014 at 8:06 AM

Oh its on the ground all right ...... dead passengers or live hostages as the plane gets a new paint job and refitted with some form of nukes ....... THE MISSION IS NOT OVER ....... YET

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3 replies
ajt1025 March 23 2014 at 7:17 AM

I hope an end will come soon with this aircraft. I am sure that the families want to find answers but doubt that will happen. Time for the living to move on.

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johnmustang March 23 2014 at 8:58 AM

I know we all want to trust in those who lead us, however I think trust is not interpreted the same way by them. There is so much that is labeled as classified information with the idea it protects us all from more hostile intentions, but it also denies us from knowing what really is going on in the world. Who knows whether there is more that is known about this flight. We may never know. None of the high technology being used to locate this jet seems to be working so far. I think many are asking a very legitimate question, which is whether there are things we all aren't being told. May be not but it is a good question.

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gldnears March 23 2014 at 8:58 AM

Wild goose chase . . .

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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