Air search finds ‘two orange objects’
KUALA LUMPUR: Air search for the missing MH370 had spotted two orange objects and one white coloured drum in the wild south Indian Ocean, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said today.
Confirming that new leads from satellite data had emerged in the past few days, the minister said yesterday search and rescue operations for the runaway Boeing 777-200ER jet covered some 18,500 sq km in the Indian Ocean.
“Two orange objects approximately one metre in length and one white coloured drum were sighted by search aircraft, but remain unidentified and have not been conclusively linked to MH370.
“HMAS Success detected two radar targets within the search area, but could not locate the targets on further investigation of the area.
“Earlier today, a Chinese search plane reportedly sighted objects in the Australian search area. These objects are not in the vicinity of those which were identified by the Australian authorities last week.
“A few minutes ago the Prime Minister (Najib Tun Razak) received a call from the Prime Minister of Australia (Tony Abbott), who informed him that an Australian search aircraft had located two objects in the Australian search area, one circular and one rectangular,” Hishammuddin, who is also Defence Minister said.
He said the HMAS Success was in the vicinity and it was possible for the objects to be retrieved within the next few hours, or by tomorrow morning at the latest.
Three search areas, totalling approximately 20,000 square nautical miles, have been identified for operations today. RCC Australia anticipates that 10 aircraft will be used.
HMAS Success remains the only vessel in the search area. A number of Chinese vessels are expected to commence arriving within the search area on March 25.
He said three aircraft, two from Japan and one from the UAE, had already departed from Subang and are en route to the southern corridor.
Six Malaysian ships, with three ship-borne helicopters, are now in northern part of the southern corridor.
“Ten Chinese ships are in the southern corridor, carrying out search and rescue operations. HMS Echo is currently refuelling in the Maldives and will be sailing to the southern corridor this evening.
“In the northern corridor, Turkmenistan have confirmed they have not had any sightings of MH370 on their radar. Each piece of information we receive from our partners in the northern corridor helps us to continuously narrow the corridor,” he added.
New French radar images
The flight went missing from civilian radar an hour after takeoff when it was flying over the South China Sea. The aircraft was picked up by military radar an hour later in the western side of peninsula Malaysia flying towards the Andaman Sea.
The flight transponder which tracks the plane was switched off internally. Investigators now believe that the flight was flying over the Indian Ocean, based on the ‘pings’ sent out by the plane which was picked up by satellite feeds.
The plane is suspected to have flown some five hours before its “pings” went missing. Most of the passengers on board were Chinese nationals. The focus of the search now is centered some 2,500km southwest of the Australian city of Perth.
The minister also said new leads into MH370’s possible location have come from satellite data.
“This was one of the four tools we identified that could narrow the search area, along with surveillance radar data, increasing surface and air assets, and bringing in more technical experts.
“The most recent images were obtained by French satellites, which captured radar images of potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor on March 21.
“These images were received by Malaysia on the evening of March 22 and were relayed to RCC Australia on the morning of March 23, as they are leading the search in that particular area of the southern corridor.
“This morning we have received a further set of images from French satellites, this time captured by cameras. These images were taken yesterday and have been relayed to RCC Australia,” he said.
The minister also said family members of passengers and crew of the illfated flight were briefed on the latest developments.
“Yesterday, the high-level team met with families in Beijing for more than eight hours. The families asked many questions, and made detailed requests for radar readings and other data.
“Some of these questions could not be answered, and some of the data they requested was still being held by the investigation, as is standard procedure in investigations of this sort.
“After meeting with the families for a total of more than 12 hours, and taking hundreds of questions, the high-level team has returned to Kuala Lumpur to discuss the matters raised at the meetings. They will return to Beijing tomorrow to continue.
“The briefings in Kuala Lumpur over the last two days went smoothly, and the families responded as positively as could be expected, with the families engaging with representatives from the relevant authorities,” Hishammuddin said.
Hishammuddin also confirmed that the Malaysian police had interviewed more than a hundred people including families of both the pilot and co-pilot.
He also said that the government was considering to release the radio transcript between the cockpit and the air traffic control until before the flight went incommunicado.
“As far as the transcript is concerned, the technical committee is considering releasing it and we will keep you informed about the decision,” he said.
Hishammuddin also said that the Inspector General of the Police will attend tomorrow’s press conference to answer further questions on the ongoing investigation.