MH370: Search for missing jet debris intensifies - FOX 13 News

MH370: Search for missing jet debris intensifies

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An international search for possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane resumed Friday in the southern Indian Ocean, with China sending three warships and an icebreaker to join search planes in one of the remotest places on Earth. 

Australian officials said the first planes sent to to locate two large objects detected by satellites returned empty-handed from the hunt through rough seas about 1,400 miles from western Australia. Other planes were still in the area trying to find the objects.

"The last report I have is that nothing of particular significance has been identified in the search today but the work will continue," said Warren Truss, who is acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is in Papua New Guinea.

Truss told reporters that two Chinese aircraft are expected to arrive in Perth on Saturday to join the search, and two Japanese aircraft will be arriving on Sunday. A small flotilla of ships coming to Australia from China is still several days away.

John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division, said five planes were sent out Friday. 

Young said the weather improved from Thursday, but there was still some low cloud cover over the search area. The aircraft are planning to head back to the search zone on Saturday, but the search area will change slightly depending on water movements overnight, Young said. 

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft also was in the air, but like the other planes, once it arrives it will have enough fuel for only two to three hours of search time before returning to Perth.

China's National Maritime Search and Rescue Center said three warships were en route to the area, but gave no indication when they might arrive at the site. Earlier reports said the ships -- the Kunlunshan, the Haikou and the Qiandaohu -- were searching this week off the southwest coast of Sumatra in Indonesia.  

The Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon was preparing to leave Perth in western Australia for the search site, state television reported. The ship was in Perth following a voyage to Antarctica in January.

Also Friday, three Chinese military planes left the southern city of Sanya for Malaysia to join the search, the official Xinhua News Agency said. 

Investigators involved with the search for the Boeing 777 that vanished March 8 with 239 people on board have said the sighting of the two objects is a credible lead but cautioned that the items could be debris along a shipping route. 

One of the objects on the satellite image was almost 80 feet long -- which is longer than a standard container -- and the other was 15 feet. There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia, John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division, said Thursday.  

"This is a lead, it's probably the best lead we have right now," Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a busy shipping route.

A source close to the investigation told Reuters it could take "several days" to establish whether the objects spotted by satellite came from the missing jetliner.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he described as "devastated." Of the 227 passengers on the missing flight, 154 were from China.

"It's about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the earth, but if there is anything down there we will find it. We owe it to the families of those people to do no less," Abbott said.

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, arrived in the area and used lights to search overnight before resuming a visual search Friday, said Ingar Skiaker of Hoegh Autoliners, speaking to reporters in Oslo. 

The Norwegian ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia, he said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Australia's deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said authorities continued to examine satellite imagery to pinpoint the location of the suspected debris, Reuters reported.

"Clearly, there's a lot of resources being put into that particular area. It's broadly consistent with the flight plans that were talked about ever since the satellites and their work has been added to the information bank," Truss told ABC radio.

"That work will continue, trying to get more pictures, stronger resolution so that we can be more confident about where the items are, how far they have moved and therefore what efforts should be put into the search effort."

There have been several false leads since the Boeing 777 disappeared nearly two weeks ago above the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The latest development marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials for what the relatives say has been the slow release of timely information.

"If it turns out that it is truly MH370, then we will accept that fate," said Selamat Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger. The jet carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals.

But he cautioned that relatives still "do not yet know for sure whether this is indeed MH370 or something else. Therefore, we are still waiting for further notice from the Australian government."

Malaysian officials met with the relatives Thursday night in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away. After the meeting, groups of people left looking distraught.

Hamid Amran, who had a child on Flight 370, said questions asked at the meeting made it "apparent that Malaysia's military is incapable of protecting its own airspace."

He believes "that my child and all the other passengers are still alive. I will not give up hope."

The hunt has encountered other false leads. Oil slicks that were seen did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible debris, but nothing was found.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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