Search Planes And Ships Are Racing To The Site Of Floating Debris

RAAF AP3C Orion aircraft. Stock photo.

A 24-metre object is among debris spotted in the southern Indian Ocean by satellites searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet, triggering a wave of aircraft being deployed to the scene for closer inspection.

An Australian Air Force P-3 Orion has arrived at the area, and will be followed shortly by additional aircraft, said Australian Maritime Safety Authority rescue coordinator John Young.

Commercial satellites have also been redirected for a more detailed look at the debris, which represents what officials describe as “probably the best lead we have” in the search for the plane which vanished on March 8.

Young also said Australian Navy vessel HMAS Success was on route, though was several days away. There are media reports a merchant vessel could arrive sooner.

He explained the most likely situation was that aircraft would find an object, and then report back a GPS position. A RAAF Hercules aircraft will drop buoys used to monitor water movements.

“The images were captured by satellite — they might not be related to the aircraft. The assessment of these images was provided by the Australian Geospacial Intelligence Organisation,” Young said in a press conference.

“These images are in the vicinity of the search area identified and searched during the past two days. Further images are expected after commercial satellites are redirected,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said earlier “new and credible” information had come to light, while stressing the object was not necessarily linked to the missing jet.

“I would like to inform the House that new and credible information has come to light,” Abbott said, adding he had informed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak of the developments.

“Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified.”

The search area.

Malaysia Minister of Defence and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has released a statement, saying he was informed of the development at 10am local time by Abbott and had also been briefed by the Australian high commissioner.

“At this stage, Australian officials have yet to establish whether these objects are indeed related to the search for MH370,” he said, adding ships were also on the way to the search area according to the Wall Street Journal.

Flight MH370 — which had 239 people on board — has been missing since it seemingly vanished from its flight path, en route to Beijing from Malaysia. After extensive search efforts involving several countries, the investigation has centred around the possibility the plane was hijacked.

Authorities identified two potential flight corridors the plane may have taken after it was diverted from its intended route. Australia has been leading search efforts in the Indian Ocean. The other corridor would have taken the plane north west to Asia.

Investigations turned to the pilots, crew and passengers as it became increasingly unlikely the disappearance was the result of an aviation accident. This week it was revealed a flight computer in the cockpit was manually programmed to take the plane off course.

Malaysian officials recently refuted claims the jet had been seen be residents over the Maldives, a remote island nation in the Indian Ocean.

More to come …

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