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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.
This will probably turn out like one of those desperate searches for the car keys, 20 minutes tearing up the house and all along they are right there in the other pocket.
After reading some of the comments here, I have come to suggestion that many of you need to put the crack pipe down.
We don't have that pipe as the one heading the search commandeered it.
I agree. Some comments are almost embarrassing to read.
I cannot imagine what the families are going through, but many nations are doing far more than they would have to, they are trying to find a tiny metal object in a vast, deep sea. If they even find the wreck, and that's a big if I think, it could be along time. The families shouldn't blame the searchers.
You are right, it is too bad they cannot see what people are trying to do to help them. As a large group of people who are facing the unimaginable, it is possible that they are feeding off of each other. Maybe their behavior would be different if they were facing this individually.
Their response is very typical of their culture. They want everything and they want it now. They probably have no idea how vast the search area is or how many billions could be spent trying to find a needle in the haystack known as the world.
A search by definition can in the best case yield results quickly and in the worst case less quickly. There is no reason to treat each siting of a piece of flotsam on the ocean as a major result.The plane will be found eventually. We will probably not know how because all the military departments around the world would love the capability to find things on the ocean bottom without their counterparts knowing just how good they are. You can bet your bottom dollar that many more assets are looking than advertised and making sure it is not known that they are looking.
i don't believe any government knows what happen to that flight. the malaysia government can't give answers where their are none.
One can not forget that the Malaysian government lied about the probable location of the missing plane shortly after it was reported that the plane was lost. The government knew they were lying, they misdirected search teams away from the plans path, and they failed to report any abnormalities for some seven hours. Can anyone corroborate that the plane actually took off that night? What was in the cargo hole of the plane? Why has the government refused to disclose this information? Perhaps China will send in their Marines to find out what really happened to this plane.
we think everyone is doing a great job. keep up the good work
How can you call these people retards as their anger is just aimed at the Malaysian government and airline itself. Understand that their family members got on a plane and have never been heard of since. Its almost like something out of a syfi movie. People deal with all kinds of accidents and illnesses in life but rarely does loved ones just dissappear. The best they can hope for is an elaborate hyjacking, because if not then crash or not they were dead long before the plane crashed somewhere.
Indeed they are not retards...that would be you for evem thinking that. I guess that you are unaware that there aremany cultures in this wrold and not all if any think like you. While I do understand that they are looking for answers, I also believe that the people in the demonstrations with those signs with questionable requests and demands are really family members. Reality can be an awful thing to accept when there is loss like this and in time they will indeed figure it out but your name calling does not help a bit...how about you take a stab at some education on the world outside of your home town and figure things out. You may be surprised at what you learn...
And these people, while I understand they are grieving, need to consider the fact that a lot of total strangers are out there risking their life everyday to try to find this wreckage. These people need to stop the protesting and the tantrums......go home, grow up, let this search run it's course and stop behaving the way they are. I think this has gotten to a ridiculous status now, these people are not acting like grieving relatives, but rather like out of control protestors.
These people need to go home and be with their friends, relatives and neighbors. They have to know their loved ones are not returning so they need to get some help with the grieving process if they need it and begin to understand it may be years or never before their questions are answered. Have a beautiful memorial service with friends and relatives and remember the loved ones life, instead of demanding the impossible and protesting. They may not like the way the search has gone but it is what it is and they need to start accepting. That's a great big ocean out there.
They haven't reached the final stage of grief which is ...acceptance.