Written by Kumudu Jayawardana
24 Mar, 2014 | 10:22 am
A Chinese plane crew has spotted a white, square-shaped object in an area identified by satellite imagery as containing possible debris from the missing Malaysian airliner.
Xinhua News agency said the crew aboard the IL-76 plane spotted the object in the southern Indian Ocean search area on Monday.
Satellite images from Australia and China have identified possible debris in the area that may be linked to the disappearance of flight MH370 on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
Earlier, Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA ) rescue coordination centre said the search area was expanded from 59,000 to 68,500 square kilometres, including a new separate area because of data provided by France on Sunday.
The US Pacific command said it was sending a black box locator to the region in case a debris field is located. The Towed Pinger Locator has highly sensitive listening capability so that if the wreck site is located, it can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet, Cmdr. Chris Budde, a US Seventh Fleet operations officer, said in a statement.
Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said “nothing of note” was found on Sunday, which he described as a “fruitless day.”
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll stick at it,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.
“We’re just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts,” he added.
A cyclone bearing down on the Australian northwest coast “could stir up less favourable weather,” he said.
In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in an interview with The Associated Press that the satellite radar echoes “identified some debris that could be from the Malaysian Airlines plane.”
The spokesman said that these echoes “are not images with a definition like a photograph, but they do allow us to identify the nature of an object and to localise it.”
“The French government has decided to increase its satellite monitoring of this zone and try to obtain precise images and locations,” Mr. Nadal said.
US underwater wreck hunter David Mearns on Monday described the French satellite sighting of potential debris as a “positive development,” although he was unaware of the full details.
Mr. Mearns was an adviser to British and French search authorities following the loss of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Brazil to Paris in 2009.
“The odds are still against the plane being found at the moment, but at least we have a glimmer of hope that we didn’t have two days ago,” Mr. Mearns said. “Right now, time is running out very quickly.”
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