The latest possible sighting of wreckage from Flight MH370, which
went missing 19 days ago, was captured by a Thai satellite in
roughly the same remote expanse of sea as earlier images reported by
France, Australia and China.
"We detected floating objects, perhaps more than 300," Anond
Snidvongs, the head of Thailand's space technology development
agency, told Reuters.
"We have never said that the pieces are part of MH370 but have so
far identified them only as floating objects."
An international search team of 11 military and civilian aircraft
and five ships had been heading for an area where more than 100
objects that could be from the Boeing 777 had been identified by
French satellite pictures earlier this week, but severe weather
forced the planes to turn back.
"The forecast in the area was calling for severe icing, severe
turbulence and near-zero visibility," said Lieutenant Commander Adam
Schantz, the officer in charge of the U.S. Navy Poseidon P8 maritime
surveillance aircraft detachment.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the
effort, confirmed flights had been called off but said ships
continued to search despite battering waves.
"It's the nature of search and rescue. It's a fickle beast," Flying
Officer Peter Moore, the captain of an Australian AP-3C Orion, told
Reuters aboard the plane after it turned around 600 miles from the
"This is incredibly important to us. The reality is we have 239
people whose families want some information and closure."
The Malaysian airliner, on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to
Beijing on March 8, is thought to have crashed with the loss of all
239 people aboard after flying thousands of miles off course.
The objects spotted by the Thai satellite were between 2 meters (6.5
ft) and 16 meters (52 ft) in size and were in an area around 2,700
km (1,680 miles) southwest of Perth, Snidvongs said.
The pictures were taken on Monday, a day after a satellite operated
by France-based Airbus Defence & Space spotted 122 potential objects
in a 400 sq km (155 sq mile) area of ocean around 2,500 km southwest
of the Western Australian city.
MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after
take-off and investigators believe someone on board may have shut
off the plane's communications systems. Theories range from a
hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots,
but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.
Partial military radar tracking showed the plane turning west off
its scheduled course over the South China Sea and then recrossing
the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled
The logistical difficulties of the search have been highlighted by
the failure so far to get a lock on possible debris, despite the now
numerous satellite images and direct visual sightings from aircraft
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The area being searched by crews from Australia, the United States,
New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea has some of the deepest
and roughest waters in the world.
One day had already been lost earlier this week because weather
conditions were too dangerous, but Australia's Bureau of Meteorology
said the forecast for Friday was better.
Recovery of wreckage could unlock clues about why and how the plane
diverted so far off course in one of aviation's most puzzling
The United States has sent an undersea Navy drone and a high-tech
black box detector which will be fitted to an Australian ship due in
Perth in the coming days.
The so-called black boxes — the cockpit voice recorder and flight
data recorder — record what happens during flight, but time is
running out to pick up their locator beacons, which stop about a
month after a crash due to limited battery life.
The prolonged and so far fruitless search and investigation have
taken a toll, with dozens of distraught relatives of 150 Chinese
passengers clashing with police and accusing Malaysia of "delays and
China has repeatedly voiced its frustration with the efforts of
Malaysia to find the plane. China's special envoy to Malaysia said
on Thursday that Beijing was doing its best to push the Southeast
Asian nation to coordinate the international search effort, state
news agency Xinhua said.
Chinese insurance companies have started paying compensation to the
families of passengers, Xinhua reported separately.
The family of Paul Weeks, a New Zealander on board the Malaysia
Airlines flight, said they had been angered by the way the airline
has dealt with the families of passengers.
"The whole situation has been handled appallingly, incredible
insensitivity, lack of information," Weeks's sister, Sara Weeks,
told Radio Live in New Zealand.
She said her brother's wife had only received a text message to say
that her husband was presumed dead.
(Additional reporting by Suilee Wee in Beijing, Niluksi Koswanage in
Kuala Lumpur, Jane Wardell in Sydney, Gyles Beckford in Wellington
and Amy Sawitta Lefevre in Bangkok; writing by Lincoln Feast and
Alex Richardson; editing by Nick Macfie)
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