Australian authorities coordinating the operation moved the search
1,100 km (685 miles) north on Friday after new analysis of radar and
satellite data concluded the Malaysia Airlines plane travelled
faster and for a shorter distance after vanishing from civilian
radar screens on March 8.
A Chinese military aircraft spotted three suspicious objects on
Saturday in the new search area some 1,850 km (1,150 miles) west of
Perth, colored white, red and orange respectively, the official
Xinhua news agency said.
That sighting follows reports of "multiple objects of various
colors" by international flight crews on Friday, according to the
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). Some looked like they
were from fishing boats and nothing could be confirmed until they
were recovered by ships, it added.
"We're hopeful to relocate some of the objects we were seeing
yesterday," Royal New Zealand Air Force Squadron Leader Flight
Lieutenant Leon Fox told Reuters before flying out to the search
zone on an Orion P-3. "Hopefully some of the ships in the area will
be able to start picking it up and give us an indication of what we
The Chinese navy vessel Jinggangshan, which carries two helicopters,
reached the new search area early on Saturday where it was expected
to focus on searching for plane surfaces, oil slicks and life
jackets in a sea area of some 6,900 sq km, state news agency Xinhua
Another four Chinese vessels and one from Australia were on the way
but would not arrive until late in the day.
Malaysia says the Boeing 777, which vanished less than an hour into
a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was likely diverted
deliberately but investigators have turned up no apparent motive or
other red flags among the 227 passengers or the 12 crew.
U.S. officials close to the investigation said the FBI found nothing
illuminating in data it had received from computer equipment used by
MH370's pilots, including a home-made flight simulator.
The search has involved more than two dozen countries and 60
aircraft and ships but has been bedeviled by regional rivalries and
an apparent reluctance to share potentially crucial information due
to security concerns.
Two Malaysian military aircraft, which arrived in Perth on Saturday,
are expected to join the search party for the first time on Sunday.
The Malaysian government has come under strong criticism from China,
home to more than 150 of the passengers, where relatives of the
missing have accused the government of "delays and deception".
More than 20 Chinese relatives staged a brief protest on Saturday
outside the Lido hotel in Beijing where families have been staying
for the past three weeks, demanding evidence of the plane's fate.
The peaceful protest came just days after dozens of angry relatives
clashed with police after trying to storm the Malaysian embassy.
Many of Saturday's protesters carried slogans demanding the "truth"
about their lost loved ones.
"They don't have any direct evidence," said Steve Wang, who had a
relative on the flight. "(Their conclusion) is only based on
mathematical (analysis) and they used an uncertain mathematical
model. Then they come to the conclusion that our relatives are all
[to top of second column]
Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said his
country was committed to seeing the investigation through to its
"What they want from us is a commitment to
continue the search, and that I have given, not only on behalf of
the Malaysian government but the so many nations involved," he told
reporters in Kuala Lumpur after speaking with families on Saturday.
For more than a week, ships and surveillance planes had been
scouring seas 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, where
satellite images had shown possible debris from Flight MH370. That
search zone has now been abandoned.
In the first week of the search, Vietnamese, Chinese and Malaysia
ships and planes concentrated their efforts in the South China Sea.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said the latest shift
north was based on analysis of radar data between the South China
Sea and the Strait of Malacca. At that time, the Boeing 777 was
making a radical diversion west from its course.
Malaysian officials said the new search area was the result of a
painstaking analysis of Malaysian military radar data and satellite
readings from British company Inmarsat carried out by U.S., Chinese,
British and Malaysian investigators.
Engine performance analysis by the plane's manufacturer Boeing
helped investigators determine how long the plane could have flown
before it ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean thousands of
miles off course, they said.
Officials close to the investigation told Reuters last week that the
plane may have passed close to Port Blair, the capital of India's
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 550 miles further northwest from where
Malaysia has said its military radar last detected it.
At around 319,000 sq km (123,000 sq miles) — roughly the size of
Poland — the new search area is larger, but closer to Perth,
allowing aircraft to spend longer on site. It is also favorable in
terms of the weather as it is out of the deep sea region known as
the Roaring 40s for its huge seas and frequent storm-force winds.
Searchers have perhaps a week to find debris, calculate the likely
crash area and find the aircraft's voice and data "black boxes"
before batteries showing their location run out.
(Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Perth, Niluksi Koswanage
and Rujun Shen in Kuala Lumpur, Mark Hosenball in Washington,
Lincoln Feast in Sydney, Paul Carsten and Xihao Jiang in Beijing;
writing by Jane Wardell; editing by Dean Yates and Jeremy Laurence)
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