Missing jetliner: Two objects spotted could be debris

Malaysian Airlines chief
Melbourne/Kuala Lumpur, March 20: Malaysia today said two large objects spotted by a satellite in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean were the first "credible lead" in the massive search for the missing plane, raising hopes of a breakthrough to trace the jet that mysteriously disappeared nearly two weeks ago.

"This morning, the Prime Minister (Najib Razak) received a call from the Prime Minister of Australia (Tony Abbott), informing him that two possible objects related to the search for MH370 had been identified in the southern Indian Ocean," Defence and Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. "We now have a credible lead," he said, adding this "requires us overnight to verify and corroborate it".

Australian authorities also said the search could take time and one of its military planes was unable to locate the debris due to bad weather, but other planes would continue the hunt. Officials said one should not jump to any early conclusion as the hunt for the Boeing 777-200 missing since March 8 had thrown up several false leads.

Australian military-led search aircraft were dispatched to check whether the two objects were the wreckage of the missing Malaysian jet. One of the objects spotted by satellite imagery was 24 meters (about 80 ft) in length and the other was 5 meters (15 ft).

Hishammuddin said that the overall search effort involving 26 countries for the plane with 239 people, including five Indians, on board would continue in the meantime along two corridors stretching from the southern Indian Ocean to South and Central Asia.

"Data markers balls will be dropped" by the planes heading towards the objects, he said. "There is an urgency to find black box to find answers," he said, but cautioned that these sightings, while credible, are still to be confirmed.

Australian officials said satellite imagery showed the objects were around 2,500 km southwest of Perth, one of the remotest parts of the globe, and appeared to be awash over water several thousand metres deep. The objects were spotted four days go.

The dimension of one of the objects could possibly be a major part of a wing, officials indicated, but hastened to add that it could also be seaborne debris as containers periodically fall off cargo vessels.


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