Search for jet could move toward pole

Last updated 10:21 21/03/2014
The MH370 story in pictures
Reuters Zoom
The saga begins on March 8, when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am, local time. On board are 227 passengers and 12 crew.

Objects possibly from flight MH370

Bad weather hampers jet search

SlideshowMissing flight MH370 black box countdown

Search Map MH370
The area in which wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 may have been spotted.
Relative on MH370 passenger
GRIEVING: A relative of a person on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane cries.

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The search for MH370 will resume this morning in the southern Indian Ocean, where the hunt for the missing plane is currently concentrated.

The latest lead estimates the missing Malaysia Airline plane could be closer to the waters of Antarctica than to the Australian coast, according to a reporter on board a search flight.

ABC News reporter David Wright was embedded on the first flight over the search area on Thursday, and afterwards tweeted:

"The sailors conducting this high tech search scouring 4100 sq miles of open ocean closer to Antarctica than to Australia due south of KL...".

"Nada today - except for a freighter and 2 pods of dolphins. They'll be back out tomorrow - eager to provide answers to those families #MH370".

The search operation has so far been hampered by dire weather causing poor visibility - ships were expected to have better chance of spotting debris.

The Norwegian ship St Petersburg reached the area late last night and would join today's search. It used searchlights overnight to scan the rough seas.

The Australian Navy ship HMAS Success and British survey ship HMS Echo were also en route to aid in the search.

In what officials called the "best lead" of the nearly two-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two objects floating off the coast of Australia and halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

The development raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.

Australian officials said the large objects were spotted by satellite four days ago in one of the remotest parts of the globe but they cautioned it could take days to confirm if the objects were part of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.

Malaysia's government said the search would continue elsewhere despite the sighting in the southern Indian Ocean.

The area where the objects were spotted was around 2500km southwest of Perth, roughly corresponding to the far end of a southern track that investigators calculated the aircraft could have taken after it was diverted.

"Yesterday I said that we wanted to reduce the area of the search. We now have a credible lead," Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Two Royal Australia Air Force AP-3C Orions, a US Navy P-8 Poseidon and a New Zealand air force P-3K2 Orion were also involved in the search.

RENEWED HOPE

There have been many false leads and no confirmed wreckage found from Flight MH370 since it vanished from air traffic control screens off Malaysia's east coast early on March 8, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

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Hishammuddin said the information on the objects received from Australia had been "corroborated to a certain extent" by other satellites, making it more credible than previous leads.

The larger of the objects measured up to 24 metres long and appeared to be floating in water several kilometres deep, Australian officials said. The second object was about five metres long. Arrows on the images pointed to two indistinct objects apparently bobbing in the water.

"It's credible enough to divert the research to this area on the basis it provides a promising lead to what might be wreckage from the debris field," Australian air force Air Commodore John McGarry told a news conference in Canberra.

The satellite images, provided by US company DigitalGlobe, were taken on March 16, meaning that the possible debris could by now have drifted far from the original site.

Australian officials said an aircraft had dropped a series of marker buoys in the area, which would provide information about currents to assist in calculating the latest location.

The captain of the first Australian air force AP-3C Orion plane to return from the search area described the weather conditions as "extremely bad" with rough seas and high winds.

China's icebreaker for Antarctic research, Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, will set off from Perth to search the area, Chinese state news agency Xinhua cited maritime authorities as saying. About two-thirds of the 227 passengers on Flight MH370 were Chinese nationals.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Abbott in a telephone call that he hoped Australia would do all it could to search the area and offer assistance to Chinese search ships, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

"At present, search and rescue work is quite difficult, and the situation in the relevant seas is complex. As long as there is a thread of hope, we must put in 100 per cent effort," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.

- Fairfax/Agencies

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