Malaysia’s transportation minister Hishammudin bin Hussein has announced that 122 pieces of “potential objects” have been spotted by French Airbus satellite in the search area for missing Malaysia Airline Flight 370.
“We cannot tell whether the potential objects are from MH370”, Hussein said. “This is another new lead that will help direct the search operation.”
Here are some of the highlights from the press conference (video below):
– The French photos were taken on March 23 and show 122 items — ranging from 1m long to 23m (975 feet) long — within a 154 sq miles area of the ocean. “Some of the objects appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid material.”
– Satellite leads from Australia, China, and France showing possible debris. “It is now imperative that we link the debris to MH370. This will allow us to further reduce the search area and locate more debris from the plane.”
– Australia is leading the search out of Perth. “All countries involved are displaying unprecedented levels of cooperation.”
– Hussein noted that a working group involving an international technical team is working with the UK company Inmarsat, which p
rovided crucial satellite data that indicated the plane flew along the northern and southern corridors. Inmarsat has also provided important further satellite data analysis.
Here is a picture of some of the objects (via Bevan Shields of the Sydney Morning Herald):
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted that the search has been made more difficult because of extreme weather conditions.
“A considerable amount of debris has been sighted in the area where the flight was last recorded,” Abbot said. “Bad weather and inaccessibility has so far prevented any of it from being recovered. But we are confident that it will be.”
A dozen aircraft from Australia, the U.S., New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea are currently scouring the seas about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth — one of the Earth’s most remote locations — to inspect debris and search for the black box of the flight. Underwater volcanos and huge waves complicate the search.
“In general, this is the windiest and waviest part of the ocean,” University of New South Wales oceanographer Erik van Sebille told Agence-France Presse. “In winter, if a storm passes by you can expect waves of 10-15 meters.”
On the bright side, van Sebille noted that the remote location means that searchers will not deal with a bunch of garbage and random debris.
“This area of ocean is virtually pristine,” he said, noting that ocean currents in the area naturally moved flotsam north of the search area.
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