Written by Bella Dalima
29 Mar, 2014 | 11:50 am
Objects spotted floating in a new search area for debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner need to be recovered and inspected before they can be linked to the plane, Australian officials said on Saturday.
Planes from China and Australia were combing the newly targeted area off the west coast of Australia after several objects were spotted on Friday, including two rectangular items that were blue and gray, and ships on the scene will attempt to recover them, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.
“The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships,” the authority said in a statement. “It is not known how much flotsam, such as from fishing activities, is ordinarily there. At least one distinctive fishing object has been identified.”
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said a cold front would bring rain, low clouds and reduced visibility over the southern part of the search area, with moderate winds and swells of up to 2 metres (6 feet). Conditions will improve on Sunday, although rain, drizzle and low clouds are still likely.
Newly analyzed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising hopes searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that Flight 370 crashed in the Indian Ocean on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
The newly targeted zone is nearly 1,130 kilometres (700 miles) northeast of sites the searchers have crisscrossed for the past week. The redeployment came after analysts determined that the jet may have been travelling faster than earlier estimates and would therefore have run out of fuel sooner, officials said.
During the earlier search, hundreds of objects have been seen in the water by satellites, but so far not a single one has been confirmed as being from the missing Boeing 777.
Search planes are being sent out from Perth, Australia, in a staggered manner, so at least one plane will be over the area for most of the daylight hours.
The Australian statement said five P-3 Orions three from Australia and one each from Japan and New Zealand plus a Japanese coast guard jet, a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76, and one civilian jet acting as a communications relay were taking part in the air search Saturday.
The shift to the new zone could be a break for searchers because it is a shorter flight from land and has much calmer weather than the remote stretch previously targeted.
But Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Sydney that the job of locating the debris was still difficult.
The new search area is about 80 per cent smaller than the old one, but still spans about 123,000 square miles (319,000 square kilometres), roughly the size of Poland. In most places, depths range from about 6,560 feet (2,000 metres) to 13,120 feet (4,000 metres), although the much deeper Diamantina trench edges the search area.
Flight 370 disappeared March 8 while bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The hunt focused first on the Gulf of Thailand, along the plane’s planned path. But when radar data showed it had veered sharply west, the search moved to the Andaman Sea, off the western coast of Malaysia, before pivoting to the southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia.
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