Malaysian Airlines MH370: live
Search enters second day in an inhospitable patch of the southern Indian Ocean, after Australian analysis of satellite images revealed two objects possibly related to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 1,500 miles south west of Perth
By Hannah Strange
7:00AM GMT 21 Mar 2014
7:00AM GMT 21 Mar 2014
09.06 Here's the Australian Prime Minister talking about how Australia is throwing everything they have at the 'gut wrenching' search effort and how it's hard for the Chinese president who is finding the whole thing 'devastating'
09.03 AFP reports that Australian radars had failed to detect any sign of a missing Malaysian jetliner and it was switching to skilled observers to spot any debris.
"Noting that we got no radar detections yesterday, we have replanned the search to be visual," John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division said.
"So the aircraft flying relatively low, very highly trained and skilled observers looking out of the aircraft windows, and looking to see objects."
That meant the search aircraft would have to fly more closely together, Young said, adding, "we will need more aircraft for a search of that type".
08.50 A U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft takes off from a runway in Perth as it joins the search for the missing plane:
08.27 The combination the search planes are using of radar to detect objects coupled with low passes over the ocean to identify them visually is crucial because when "radar blips come back it's not always clear what the object is," said Michael Smart, an aerospace engineering professor at Australia's University of Queensland.
"They use the radar to focus and then they go and visually look to see what it is," he told AP. "The high technology and the low technology are equally important."
The biggest challenges for the searchers are weather conditions in an area known for its storms, he said, though rainy and cloudy weather appeared to be clearing up Friday afternoon. And if the objects are partially submerged as they bob in the ocean that could also affect the planes' radar detection capabilities.
Smart predicted that "it will be just a matter of time before they are found. If they were going to sink they would have already."
08.21 According to AP, Young also said that although the weather has improved, there was still some low cloud cover over the search area 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) from western Australia.
Given that radar did not pick up anything yesterday searchers are using their eyes instead of equipment to try and spot the objects, forcing the planes to fly very low over the water.
08.15 John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division, has said of the search:
"Although this search area is much smaller than we started with, it nonetheless is a big area when you're looking out the window and trying to see something by eye," Young said.
"So we may have to do this a few times to be confident about the coverage of that search area".
08.05 It is already just after 7pm in Australia and hopes of a result today are fading. The last of five planes in the area is expected to return to land at around 11am GMT before flying back to the search zone tomorrow.
In Beijing, relatives gathered at the Lido Hotel received a two-hour briefing from Malaysian officials but expressed frustration at the lack of news.
Wang Zhen, son of artist Wang Linshi, said the meeting went smoothly but that there were questions on why Malaysian authorities had provided so much seemingly contradictory information.
Mr Wang said he still believes his father can be found alive and was praying that the Australian reports turn out to be false. He said he and other relatives are suspicious about what they were being told by the Malaysian side, but are at a loss as to what to do next.
"We feel they're hiding something from us," he said.
07.55 In Malaysia, the country's acting transport minister has briefly spoken to journalists at the airport hotel, saying the search is “frustrating” and has not revealed “anything concrete yet”. Jonathan Pearlman in Kuala Lumpur reports:
"I don’t know how long the search will take,” Hishammuddin Hussein said. “All the assets that have been deployed have not found any conclusive evidence related to the MH370. It is frustrating. All the reports on all the leads have been followed to.”
Mr Hishammuddin said he welcomed the display of international support which “comes across race, religion, boundaries among nations”.
“Malaysians are united in finding the plane,” he said. “It is not just Malaysia. I’m getting prayers and support from all over the world. I think it is something that gives me strength to continue and persevere.”
07.45 Good morning and welcome to today's live coverage of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Here's a quick recap of events yesterday and overnight:
The search zeroed in early yesterday morning to an area in the southern Indian Ocean, 2,300 km south west of Perth, after two large objects were spotted floating in the sea on satellite imagery. Four planes - three Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orions and an ultra-long-range Bombardier Global Express - were dispatched by the Australian authorities to scour the area, but at four hours' flying time from Perth, the area is so remote that the craft have can only spend two to three hours searching before having to return to base.
The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, also arrived in the area yesterday and used lights to search overnight before resuming a visual search this morning.
But punishing weather conditions and rough seas have hampered the search and this morning, the first Orion dispatched returned to Australia empty-handed, Australian officials said. The other three remain in the area and a US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft is on its way to join them, as are ships from several other countries.
Experts say the search for flight MH370 is taking place over one of the most inhospital and isolated points on the planet, in a 23,000 sq km patch of the southern Indian Ocean from where Antarctica beckons.
It is little traversed by maritime traffic, and when alerts went out to merchant shipping in the area on Tuesday, the nearest vessel was two days' journey away. It is also incredibly windy and lashed by huge waves.
Very harsh conditions, once you get there the influence of Antarctica... starts to come clearly on the ocean,” says Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at Sydney’s University of New South Wales, who was on a research ship in the area in December.
“It’s not an area where you would like to be for a very long time, to spend weeks searching for a plane. The place couldn’t have been worse, but also the timing couldn’t have been worse. Had it been a few months earlier, the seas are much calmer, much easier to work in.”
Mike Yardley, an air commodore with New Zealand's air force, said that yesterday's search was hampered when an Orion was forced to duck below thick clouds and fog to a very low altitude of 60 metres.
But he was optimistic that the searchers will find the objects. "We will find it - I'm sure about that piece of it. The only reason we wouldn't find it was that it has sunk," he said of the debris spotted by the satellite.
"I've been on these missions before when it's taken a few days to come across it," he said.
Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, said weather conditions were getting better today, with moderate seas and some cloud cover, and improving visibility.
This could of course be another of the false leads that have raised hopes so often throughout the search.
The Australian authorities have cautioned that the objects could be debris from a container ship, though one of the objects - at 24 metres long - is too be a container.