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Missing Malaysian aircraft sent to location of objects
Thursday March 20, 2014 7:55 PM, IANS

Four aircraft have been deployed to the southern Indian Ocean area where floating objects possibly connected with the Malaysian airliner that went missing March 8 were seen, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said Thursday.

The area where the objects were spotted is approximately 2,500 km southwest of Perth, the capital of Western Australia state, Xinhua reported.

AMSA said it was coordinating the search for the missing aircraft, with assistance from the Australian Defence Force, the New Zealand Air Force and the US Navy.

AMSA's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Australia earlier received satellite imagery of two objects possibly related to the missing passenger jet.

The assessment of these images was provided by the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation as a possible indication of debris south of the search area that has been the focus of the search operation.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea.

The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

Earlier Thursday, AMSA said that, of the two objects spotted, the large one was about 24 metres long.

"The objects are relatively indistinct. The indication to me is of objects that are of a reasonable size and probably awash with water and bobbing up and down on the surface," Xinhua quoted Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) official John Young as saying at a press conference in Canberra.

"The largest... was assessed as being 24 metres. There is another one that is smaller than that," he added.

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Orion aircraft arrived in the area about 1.50 p.m.

A further three aircraft have been tasked by RCC Australia to the area later in the day, including a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion and a US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft.

The Poseidon aircraft is expected to arrive at 3 p.m. The second RAAF Orion is expected to depart RAAF Base Pearce at 6 p.m. The New Zealand Orion is due to depart at 8 p.m.

An RAAF C-130 Hercules aircraft has been tasked by RCC Australia to drop datum marker buoys.

These marker buoys assist RCC Australia by providing information about water movement to assist in drift modelling. They will provide an ongoing reference point if the task of relocating the objects becomes protracted.

A merchant ship that responded to a shipping broadcast issued by RCC Australia Monday is expected to arrive in the area about 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, the HMAS Success is en route to the scene. The ship is equipped to recover any objects that have been located.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament that new and credible information had come to light in relation to the search.

"Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified," Abbott said.

"We must keep in mind the task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult and it may turn out that they are not related to the search for flight MH370."

The Australian prime minister also said he had informed his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak about the new developments.

In Kuala Lumpur, a Malaysian official said in a statement that Prime Minister Razak received a call from his Australian counterpart at 10 a.m. Thursday, informing him that "two possible objects related to the search for" flight MH370 had been identified in the southern Indian Ocean.

"The Australian high commissioner (to Malaysia) has also briefed me on the situation," Hishammuddin Hussein, minister of defence and acting minister of transport of Malaysia, said in the statement.

Extensive search activities have continued throughout Thursday in the southern Indian Ocean within the Australian Search and Rescue Region.


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