Missing Malaysia Airlines: Is the search for flight MH370 over?

Mar 21, 2014, 01:11 IST | Agencies

The Australian government released pictures taken by satellite on March 16 of possible plane debris seen around 2,500 km southwest of Perth - one of the most remote areas of the planet

Melbourne: Two objects that may be wreckage from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been spotted floating in the southern Indian Ocean.

‘Debris’ spotted: The debris was spotted on satellite imagery and a total of four aircraft have been sent to investigate the sighting, some 2,500 km off the coast of Perth.

The Australian government released pictures taken by satellite on March 16 of possible plane debris seen around 2,500 km southwest of Perth - one of the most remote areas of the planet that’s a four-hour flight from the Australian coast.

One of the objects is estimated to be 78ft (24m) in size, the other 15 ft (five metres), and the sighting of the objects was said by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be ‘credible and potentially important’.

The search, which included four planes, has ended for the day but will resume in the morning.

Agonising wait: One father was adamant that he would not give up hope saying, “Nothing is definite. I hope my sons returns. My son is still alive.’ Pics/AFP

No certain wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found since it disappeared on March 8, sparking one of the largest search efforts in aviation history and raising questions about what happened to the plane carrying 239 people.

Other family members broke down when the announcement was made, hoping the search had come to an end.

Even before suspending the search for the day, authorities cautioned the objects could be something other than plane wreckage, such as shipping containers that fell off a passing vessel.

But they said they represent the best lead so far in the search for the missing airliner, which vanished 13 days ago with 239 passengers and crew aboard.

“At least there is a credible lead,” Malaysia’s interim Transportation Secretary Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters. “That gives us hope. As long as there’s hope, we will continue.”

Australian officials first announced the news to the world in a briefing closely watched by relatives of some of the missing at the Lido hotel in Beijing.

While Hishammuddin said efforts are intensifying around the site of the Australian discovery, he said the search will continue across the massive search zone until authorities can give the families answers.

“For the families around the world, the one piece of information that they want most is the information we just don’t have: the location of MH370,” he said.

Until searchers make a confirmed find of debris from the aircraft, the search and rescue operation will continue throughout the search zone, Hishammuddin said.

Even as the focus shifted to the southern Indian Ocean, Hishammuddin said Malaysia was sending two aircraft to search Kazakhstan in central Asia.

Meanwhile, following the Australian announcement, China said it had redirected some of its ships to the southern Indian Ocean.

Some remain sceptical

However, some analysts said the debris is most likely not pieces of Flight 370. “The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from some passing ship is probably large,” said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. The size of the objects concerned David Gallo, one of the leaders of the search for Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. “It’s a big piece of aircraft to have survived something like this,” he said, adding that if it is from the aircraft, it could be part of the tail.

FBI joins search
Nearly two weeks after the plane went missing, the FBI has joined forces with Malaysian authorities in analysing deleted data on a flight simulator belonging to the pilot of the missing jet. Files containing records of flight simulations were deleted on February 3 from the device found in the home of the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu said.

It was not clear whether investigators thought that deleting the files was unusual. They might hold hints of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went, or the files could have been deleted simply to clear memory for other material.

Malaysia Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that Zaharie is considered innocent until proven guilty. He said members of the pilot’s family are cooperating in the investigation. Zaharie was known to some within the online world of flight simulation enthusiasts.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FBI has been asked to analyse the deleted simulator files. US Attorney General Eric Holder said in Washington that the FBI was working with Malaysian authorities. “At this point, I don’t think we have any theories,” he said.

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