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Australia hopeful as more items pulled from sea

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- Australia's prime minister said Sunday that he was hopeful a clue will emerge soon to narrow the hunt for Flight 370, as more objects were pulled from the southern Indian Ocean and checked to see whether they were part of the plane that went missing more than three weeks ago.

So far, even though more ships are scouring the area off western Australia, none of the recovered items has been connected to the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed March 8 with 239 people on board.

"My understanding from this morning is that there has been no discrete debris associated with the flight," Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy told reporters Sunday.

In Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the "intensifying search effort" as positive because objects "have been recovered from the ocean."

The Australian Maritimes Safety Authority said 10 planes took part in the search Sunday, leaving in staggered times from the western city of Perth. Eight ships were on the scene, including the Australian navy supply ship HMAS Success, which is to store any wreckage found.

The ships are trying to locate and identify the objects sighted by aircraft over the past two days.

Leavy, the commander of the search task force, said the operation was made more difficult because the particular area being combed is in a shipping lane and may be littered with floating objects.

AMSA said there were light showers and low clouds in the area, but not enough to disrupt the search, which is about 2 1/2 hours flying time from Perth, allowing the planes five hours to search before they have to return to base.

Among the objects spotted over the last day were three by a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane that were white, red and orange, according to a report from China's official Xinhua News Agency said. The missing Boeing 777's exterior was red, white, blue and gray.

In Malaysia, several dozen Chinese relatives of passengers of Flight 370 demanded Sunday that the Malaysian government apologize for its handling of the search for the plane and for the prime minister's statement saying it crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

Holding up banners that read "We want evidence, truth, dignity" in Chinese, and "Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back" in English, the group staged a protest at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur just hours after flying in from Beijing.

Two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard the plane, which disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, were Chinese, and China has urged Malaysia to be more open about the investigation.

One of the relatives, who gave only his surname, Xu, said they want to meet officials "at the very highest levels."

Newly analyzed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising expectations that searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean. The change came after analysts determined that the Boeing 777 may have been traveling faster than earlier estimates and would therefore have run out of fuel sooner.

That would narrow the hunt for the wreckage and the plane's black boxes, which should contain clues to what caused the plane to be so far off-course.

An Australian warship with an aircraft black box detector was set to depart Sunday to join the search. It will still take three to four days for the ship, the Ocean Shield, to reach the search zone - an area roughly the size of Poland about 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) to the west of Australia.

"The ship will take part in the surface search until the debris is positively identified and an underwater search area is then predicted," U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews told reporters in Perth.

The Ocean Shield will be equipped with a black box detector - the U.S. Navy's Towed Pinger Locator - and an unmanned underwater vehicle, as well as other acoustic detection equipment.

But even if investigators can determine that the plane went down in the newly targeted search zone, recovery of its flight data and cockpit voice recorders could be complicated.

The seafloor within the search area is covered in squishy sediment and is generally flat, save for a steep slope and trench near its southern end.

Unless the plane's fuselage went down the slope or into the trench, the underwater geography should not hinder the search. The area is dominated by Broken Ridge, a plateau where depths range from as shallow as about 800 meters (2,625 feet) to about 3,000 meters (9,843 feet).

At the edge of the plateau closest to Antarctica is the Diamantina trench, which seafloor mappers have found is as deep as 5,800 meters (19,000 feet), though it could be deeper in places that have not been measured.

Matthews said the Navy's ping locator has the "capability to do search and recovery operations down to a depth of 20,000 feet."

Data on the black boxes may help investigators solve what has become one of aviation's big mysteries - what happened to Flight 370, with speculation ranging from equipment failure and a botched hijacking to terrorism or an act by one of the pilots.

Australian Prime Minister Abbott also announced that a former Australian defense chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, will lead a new center in Perth to coordinate the international search effort.

Join the discussion

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czimmer383 March 30 2014 at 7:40 AM

No mystery here. Bad assumptions were made right up front that caused the trail to go cold. Then logic was not followed when they claimed the plane headed south. No one has an clue as to the motivation to fly for hours to a cold, wet, deadly destination.

Going north overland makes more sense

The only mystery in this story is why the experts did not immediately determine what happened to the airplane and where it is.

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1 reply
dimaxjordan czimmer383 March 30 2014 at 8:18 AM

They're expert, not clairvoyant. I agree, some mistakes do seem to have been made, but hindsight is always 20/20.

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oujoou March 30 2014 at 8:04 AM

Just think about how many nations are involved in finding out WHAT happened . . . how people need to know what happened. And not to mention the money being used too to fund the search. The world is not that awful when you think about it. :) There isn't one nation which is like . . . umm . . .let's cut our losses and give up on this one. People might suck in general . . . but what motivates them at the core is decency. :)

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1 reply
Gracie GirL oujoou March 30 2014 at 8:20 AM

Amazing how many Countries have come to the aide of this Malaysian missing Plane and all are working together spending millions of dollars and no one as you said is complaining. It's to bad the rest of the world that has "Assets" to help this search haven't. I guess you know who your friends are when in need.

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cclemen March 30 2014 at 9:02 AM

How can you turn off these transponders anyway. Didn't we lose 4 airplanes on 9/11 because the transponders were truned off? Why can these even be turned off?

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2 replies
Just Dropping By cclemen March 30 2014 at 9:17 AM

They weren't turned off, The people in the control tower fell asleep.

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lovieperkins cclemen March 30 2014 at 5:11 PM

Amazing, I understood that HLS did their job, to divert any future attacks... and to miss that control of turning off the transponders , possibly allowing another attack is disgraceful & incompetant.....this should then have been 'blocked'. ????

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Gracie GirL March 30 2014 at 9:01 AM

I hope they find something even Amelia Earharts plane.

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631207948 March 30 2014 at 10:29 AM

This search was botched from the beginning by Malaysia holding back critical information and refusing help form it's neighbors. This has been a horrible way of treating the families victims and should reqwuire more than a simple apology.

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1 reply
James M. Adams 631207948 March 30 2014 at 11:38 AM

What do you suggest be used to supplement the apology?

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Golden Moose March 30 2014 at 11:04 AM

I have the utmost sympathy for the friends and family of the missing people. That being said: the Malaysian is not in an enviable position. No matter what the government or airline execs do or don't do, say or don't say, try or don't try, (You get the idea.) they are 'wrong' and making people upset/mad. This is not to say some blatant mistakes weren't made, however, in this world of technology, people expect everything to be explainable and explainable RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately, (Or fortunately.), humans aren't perfect and never will be perfect. My thoughts on the disaster is that every nation is doing their best to help locate the plane. The citizens of said nations are the ones paying for the search efforts. So ya know, maybe the friends and family of the missing people could show a little gratitude for that, and give up ridiculing, yelling and protesting. Nothing good comes from their spending energy in such a negative manner; no ones giving up the search.

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Judy March 30 2014 at 10:29 AM

i dont understand why they cant have some sort of refueling aircraft carrier in the area so the planes dont have to fly all the way back to land to refuel? wouldnt that save some time?

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3 replies
LInda March 30 2014 at 8:09 AM

What took them so long?????

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ffishb March 30 2014 at 10:30 AM

I'm shocked! After all the BS about everyone is dead, and this is the crash location, NOTHING has been found or identified to back that irrational statement up. The ONLY thing different now are less stories about upset families demanding more dilligance in the search process. The mass text was a ploy to get them off Malaysias back, nothing more

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Hello Diane March 30 2014 at 10:32 AM

I have decided that I am as nuts as some of these comments I have been reading! I would love to know who did what to whom in what area of the plane, ocean, air, but damn, God forgot to clue me in and I lost my clairvoyant card! So I read these comments and wonder why people say some of the awful things they do, and why people respond to them.....then I got it........because people like me are reading and commenting. I might as well be an ambulance chaser! How deplorable! With that said, I want to say a final time that lives have been lost, innocent lives, BUT we have lost lives in the US. We have a mudslide to deal with, death, destruction and families WHO DO NOT KNOW and do not have closure. It is my opinion that the government needs to focus their efforts there and help those people. If I were a family wondering if my mom or dad was buried under that damn mud and my government was chasing a missing plane I would be furious. On the other side of this...........maybe the government does know way more than they are saying and they are working fast and furiously to side step a disaster. I do not need you to tell me, just take care of it.

I know many of us are suspicious of our government, I understand, but although they do some underhanded things at times, and are asses, it is the best thing going. There are so many things that happen every day that the average American Citizen knows nothing about. It is quietly handled by the CIA, FBI or some other agency that doesn't exist( sarcasm). I have to trust that they are doing what needs to be done and we don't need to know. How are we going to out smart the enemy when we blab it all over the news? Sure, let me tell you what we think and where we have the plane, not a problem, you wont change your plans will you? Reporters would sell their mothers for a story, and if another person says, I will tell you on condition of anonymity, they should be court marshaled!

Ok, I'm done complaining now--maybe.

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3 replies
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