Australian Air Force locates "objects" in MH370 search
UPDATED 7.50pm: OBJECTS have been located by a Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion in the Indian Ocean, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (ASMA) has said.
HMAS Success is on scene and is attempting to locate the objects in the search for missing Malaysia Aircraft flight MH370.
"The objects were spotted in the search area about 2500 kilometres south-west of Perth by the RAAF Orion about 2.45pm today," ASMA media said.
"The crew on board the Orion reported seeing two objects - the first a grey or green circular object and the second an orange rectangular object.
"The objects identified by the RAAF Orion are separate to the objects reported by the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 to AMSA earlier today.
"The US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft sought to relocate the objects reported by the Chinese aircraft but were unable to do so.
"The US Navy P8 is remains in the search area, while a second RAAF P3 and a Japanese P3 are en route to their assigned search areas."
The last of these aircraft will depart the search area about 11pm.
UPDATE 6.05pm: A CHINESE aircrew has spotted "suspicious objects" in the southern Indian Ocean in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, media is reporting.
The initial reports from the official Chinese news service Xinhua said two relatively big floating objects and many white smaller ones, scattered within a radius of several kilometres, had been spotted by a reporter on board a Chinese Ilyushin-76 plane.
The coordinates have been reported to the Australian command centre and the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong which is reportedly on its way to assist with the search.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) confirmed it had been advised about the reported objects sighted by a Chinese aircraft.
In a statement, it said the reported objects are within the area being searched today and attempts would be made to locate them.
UPDATE 8.21AM: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has revealed an Australian civilian aircraft has spotted debris within the Australian search zone in the Indian ocean.
This follows Chinese authorities claiming they have new satellite images of debris.
"Yesterday one of our civilian search aircraft got visuals on a number of objects in a fairly small area in the overall Australian search zone," Mr Abbott said this morning.
The debris was described as "A number of small objects, fairly close together within the Australian search zone, including a wooden pallet."
EARLIER: THERE were possible fresh clues to the whereabouts of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 late last night, with revelations China has new satellite images of debris in the southern Indian Ocean, near where searches have been concentrated.
The Malaysian Transport Minister made the announcement at his daily press conference in Kuala Lumpur around 11pm last night.
"The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received satellite images of floating objects in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify," said Hishammuddin Hussein.
It is not known how many objects there might be. One measured 22m by 30m. He gave no more information, but said Chinese authorities would be making an official announcement later. Chinese state media reported that the images were taken at lunchtime on March 18 and covered a site 120km west of where Australian satellite pictures sighted apparent debris.
Meanwhile, the search for the plane, which left Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing on March 8, will continue indefinitely in the ocean off West Australia, but authorities warn the effort could be fruitless.
Six search planes, including New Zealand and Australian P3 Orions, have completed two full days of searching about 2500km off the coast of Perth for debris that could be connected to the missing Boeing 777.
Among the missing passengers are New Zealanders, Perth-based Paul Weeks, 38, and Ximin Wang, understood to be a 50-year-old bus driver from Auckland.
Wang's family have asked for privacy and declined to comment since news of the missing airliner broke.
At least 500,000sq km has been covered, criss-crossing the search area for two hours at a time each day.
Two Chinese aircraft were expected in Perth last night, and two Japanese planes will arrive today. A small flotilla of ships from China is still several days away. The Malaysian plane passengers included 154 Chinese.
"What they are doing is undertaking an enormous search," said Australian Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss. "If there's something to be found I am confident that this search effort will locate it. We will take it one day at a time. We have no contingency plan to end the search any time soon. We will keep going while there is hope."
None of the debris spotted by satellites six days ago had been located by last night.
Truss visited the Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce at Bullsbrook, about 35km north of Perth, yesterday. Air Commodore Mike Yardley, Air Component Commander at Headquarters Joint Forces New Zealand, said the Kiwi Orion had logged 84 flying hours over the past 14 days, covering a search area about one and half times the size of New Zealand. The aircraft was in the air for 10 hours yesterday.
"Once on station they'll drop down to 500ft above the water and look for liferafts or aircraft debris. Weather conditions in the area are expected to be poor again, with light rain and sea fog forecast, but our aircraft is ideally suited to the task, using advanced radar, electro-optics and visual inspection by the crew.
"Thanks to a recent upgrade, this aircraft is one of the most sophisticated in the world for this kind of work," Yardley said.
Truss said there was hope the debris could lead to answers about what happened to MH370 but there were other possible explanations.
"Shipping containers do fall off ... there are a number of potential explanations as to what these two items actually are. Even though this is not a definite lead, it is probably more solid than any other leads around the world.
"We will continue searching until we're absolutely satisfied that further searches would be futile. At this stage we're planning to continue indefinitely.
"We recognise there will be a time at some stage ... where a decision will have to be made - but we're not thinking about that."