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PERTH, Australia (AP) - Despite what Australia called an "intensifying search effort," an international hunt Sunday by aircraft and ships in the southern Indian Ocean found no debris linked to the Malaysian jet that vanished more than three weeks ago.
Several dozen angry Chinese relatives of Flight 370 passengers demanded "evidence, truth, dignity" from Malaysian authorities, expressing their frustrations at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur as the mystery drags on.
Nine aircraft and eight ships searching the waters off western Australia found only "fishing equipment and other flotsam" not connected to the Malaysia Airlines plane, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said. The Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.
But at least four orange objects that were more than 2 meters (6 feet) in size were seen by the crew of an Australian P3 Orion search plane, said the pilot, Flight Lt. Russell Adams, after returning to base.
"I must stress that we can't confirm the origin of these objects," he said, adding that images of the items have yet to be verified, and a GPS buoy was dropped and ships must still investigate.
Adams said it was "the most visibility we had of any objects in the water and gave us the most promising leads."
The planes and ships are scouring a search zone that was redefined Friday based on satellite data from the Boeing 777, but they have found no debris associated with the flight, said Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy. The zone lies in a shipping lane where sea trash is common, complicating the effort.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted the "intensifying search effort" was positive because objects "have been recovered from the ocean" in the zone after a weeklong search in another area saw items from planes that ships never managed to find.
The planes taking part in Sunday's search included three Australian P3 Orions, a Japanese P3, a Chinese Il-76, a Korean Orion, a U.S. Poseidon, and two Malaysian C-130s. Eight ships were on the scene, an area roughly the size of Poland or New Mexico, about 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) west of Australia. The vessels include the Australian navy supply ship HMAS Success, which was designated to carry any wreckage found.
Ten planes and 10 ships will take part in Monday's search, the maritime agency said, with some parts of the zone expected to experience low clouds and rain - similar to Sunday's weather.
"We have got to have conclusive visual evidence of debris," said Cmdr. William Marks, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''That is the most important thing. So we have to keep flying these missions out of Perth."
Abbott said a former Australian defense chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, will head a new center in Perth for search and recovery operations, coordinating the international effort.
Although searchers were hampered by rain and low clouds Sunday, they were still were able to look for debris because of visibility of about 10 kilometers (6 miles). It takes planes about 2 1/2 hours to get to the area, allowing a five-hour search before they must return.
Other objects spotted so far include three with white, red and orange colors by the Chinese plane, China's official Xinhua News Agency said. The missing Boeing 777's exterior was red, white, blue and gray.
For a full week, searchers relied on satellite imagery from various countries as they tried to find the plane in a zone to the south of the current area. They abruptly shifted the site Friday after authorities concluded the plane could not have traveled as far as they had thought based on its estimated speed and fuel consumption.
That prompted the change in the search for the plane's likely entry point into the sea and the possible location of its flight recorders, or "black boxes," which should contain clues to what caused the aircraft to fly so far off-course.
The Ocean Shield, an Australian warship with a U.S. device that detects "pings" from the flight recorders was joining the search. It will still take three to four days for the Ocean Shield to reach the search zone.
"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 Capt. Mark Matthews said.
In addition to the ping locator, the ship will also have an unmanned underwater vehicle and other equipment to look for wreckage on the seabed.
The search area is so big that investigators are first hoping to find floating debris so they could set a smaller zone using sophisticated analysis to determine a location from where the pieces drifted. Even if they do that, recovering the flight recorders could be complicated.
Despite the huge area, one advantage is the seabed of the search zone is generally flat, with the exception of a steep slope and a deep trench near its southern end.
The area is dominated by a muddy ocean floor known as Broken Ridge, which is actually 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 has been found to be as deep as 5,800 meters (19,000 feet) within the confines of the search zone, although 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."
If searchers don't get a location on the pinger, Marks said, "we then have to very slowly use sonar to get an image, a digital image of the bottom of the ocean. And that is incredibly - a long process to go through. But it is possible."
Information on the flight data and cockpit voice recorders may help investigators resolve what happened on Flight 370. Speculation includes equipment failure, a botched hijacking, terrorism or an act by one of the pilots.
At a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, a group of Chinese relatives of passengers on the plane demanded that the Malaysian government apologize for its handling of the search. They also are angry that Prime Minister Najib Razak announced March 24 that Flight 370 went down in the Indian Ocean before any wreckage was found.
The group, which flew in from Beijing, waved banners that read: "We want evidence, truth, dignity," and "Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back." They also demanded a meeting with Najib.
An official tweet from Najib on Sunday said, "My thoughts are with the family members of #MH370."
He added: "We will not rest until the plane is found."
Two-thirds of the 227 passengers were Chinese. China has urged Malaysia to be more open about the investigation, while Malaysian officials have defended their handling of the probe and the information they have provided to the relatives.
In Beijing, tensions were still high at a hotel where other Chinese relatives have been meeting with Malaysian representatives. On Sunday, one woman asking questions called Malaysia Airlines "criminal suspects" to applause from the crowd of about 250 people.
Relatives asked why materials being shown to them were in English and not Chinese.
Malaysia Airlines said it would fly family members to Perth, but only once wreckage is confirmed to have been found from the plane. It said a family assistance center would be set up in Perth.
In Sepang, Malaysia, not far from the airport where Flight 370 originated, Lewis Hamilton of Britain won Formula One's Malaysian Grand Prix and dedicated his win to the victims of the flight and their relatives. Before the race, fans held a moment of silence.
"We hope very soon there is news to give comfort to the families," said spectator Chris Sprangers of Australia.
Wong reported from Kuala Lumpur. Associated Press writers Scott McDonald and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur; Chris Lines in Sepang, Malaysia; Kristen Gelineau in Sydney; and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.
I was puzzled as to why the 'survivors' wasted their time in China, which even if most of the victims were from China, the flight originated in another country and was an airline unassociated with China. My guess here is one of scale. China's the biggest country, soo....What these people don't seem to understand is also an issue of scale: the sheer size of the ocean into which this airplane has most likely vanished. As for the 'possibility' of a secret landing somewhere, the data we do have doesn't support this in any way. The fact remains: this is a big planet and no amount of electronic surveilance can shrink it to the size the families seem to believe it is. The Indian/Great Southern Ocean realm is one of the few remaining places where things can truly get lost. HOW this accident happened may never be known.
I understand the families grief and loss, but carrying signs and yelling is not going to bring back their loved ones. Various countries are trying to find the plane, at great expense.
Do not the relatives realize that much work is being done to find the plane but it may never be found.
god help them
i agree with owen, my heart goes out to the family's , but for the family's to be acting out when the world is literally trying to help, i think their tone should be notched down and accusations need to also be taken down , after all the world is paying to try to find this plane and its people
Realistically, do you think that after being fed one theory or excuse after another,that even you wouldn't be frustrated,angry? 'Acting out"??? Their emotions and accusations are completely understandable and expected. And why any emphasis on 'all the world is paying' ? That in itself is untrue. What value do YOU put on human life? Show a little compassion!!
God Speed , may the best minds solve this riddle, for the families closure and to make flying safer .......
The Malaysian government handled this so badly because they panicked and were concerned over their tourist industry.....in other words...$$$$$$$$$$$.....
This country used to be called Malaya, which is better in my opinion.Malaya sounds unique and exotic. Leave off the reference to "asia",its not needed.The country had a long and significant history as Malaya, so why screw around with its historic name and make everybody mad?
Pretty desperate people in that picture. People that are refusing to take responsibility for their grief but it's what they have to do. The passengers would be answering their cell phones or would've turned up at some distant port if they were still alive. They just need to move on with their lives and accept that any future searches are a waste of time and the passengers are all dead. The only thing that is going to turn up that plane are salvage operators or tourists stumbling across wreckage in decades to come.
I agree to some extent to all that has been said. Does anybody know where they think the plane landed? What about 911? I agree that we never will know the truth. The issue I have is I cannot say either way because nothing at all has been discovered. Further I feel it is not fair to automatically blame the U. S. The plane was Milaysia to China. Why would you assume that the U. S. knows the story of the missing jet? Anybody have anything to say about this mystery that actually something that has any real definative proof? Without all the facts I think it is not a good practice to blame they or them. Who are they? For all I know they may have been taken by aliens. Nothing has ever happened like this and hopefully this will promulgate more ways to identify planes traveling over water. I understand that somethimes over water the planes position is an hour behind. Over land that just does not happen. Vor's and waypoints over land are tangible. Not to knowledgable about open water. I would imagine that if the plane kepts its altitude it woulld not be noticed. But a 300 feet difference of cruising should have alarmed somebody. On land they controller would be right on it as soon as say they dropped from 35000 to 34700 the traffic controleer from that area would have been calling the plane. It looks fishy for sure about the transponder. i feel for the passengers also. What country would all suggest that the plan landed? I am not suggesting but I would never rule out North Korea.They just found piecers of an Il-76 that has never been found. Are we to assume that it is the USA fault? I have been falsely accused so that is why I am not sticking up for anyone at this point but this is to big to keep secret forever. Have faith we will find the truth. Maybe not what we want or think but hopefully the families will some day be able to find some peace. Sad As A Navy Veteran I think we should station a carrier there because Perth is so far away from the search area. A carrier has lots of search vehicles and a nuclear carrier can travel at an unbelieveable speed (35 knots or better). It is classified but they are really fast.
Diego Garcia is the only logical choice for where it could have landed from the lack of radar contact amount of fuel and time it was alledgedly in the air
heybank.......airplanes are machinery. Machinery is not infallible. An airplane going into the ocean is not unprecedented. Not to sound callous, but sh*t happens.
The truth is, we do not know what happened to the flight.
Disagree ..... I bet they know exactly what has happened ...... I also think national security involving multiple nations is also at play here.
I couldn't agree with you more! Even at a depth of 9,843 ft., SOME viable debris should have been recovered at this point!! Luggage, fuselage, something!!!!
You could be right.