Malaysia Airlines MH370: Abbott vows to solve plane 'riddle'

Jon Donnison reports from Fremantle Port in Perth, where much of the search operation is based

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says authorities are "throwing everything we have" at the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

He was speaking as weather conditions in the southern Indian Ocean improved, allowing the search to resume.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) says 12 aircraft are taking part in Wednesday's operations.

The plane vanished on 8 March as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

"We owe it to the families, we owe it to an anxious world to do everything we can to finally locate some wreckage and to do whatever we can to solve the riddle of this extraordinarily ill-fated flight," Mr Abbott said.

He also said Australia was ready to assist the families of the missing passengers in any possible way.

Tony Abbott: "We owe it to an anxious world to do everything to locate wreckage"

"There's a terrible trauma involved - there's the uncertainty, there's the anguish. It's just an unspeakable time for these people and if they want to come to Australia we'll make them welcome and we'll do everything we can to assist," he said.

MH370 - Facts at a glance

  • 8 March - Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight carrying 239 people disappears
  • Plane's transponder, which gives out location data, was switched off as it left Malaysian airspace
  • Satellite 'pings' indicate plane was still flying seven hours after satellite contact was lost
  • 16 March - first satellite image of potential debris in southern Indian Ocean
  • 24 March - Based on new calculations, Malaysian PM says "beyond reasonable doubt" that plane crashed in southern Indian Ocean with no survivors

China has sent a special envoy, Zhang Yesui, to Malaysia, the official Xinhua news agency reports.

Mr Zhang met Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss the search, and will go on to meet Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transport minister.

Four Chinese ships and one military aircraft are taking part in the operation in the southern Indian Ocean.

Australia has been co-ordinating the multinational search that is now focused on a remote area of ocean some 1,500 miles (2,500km) to the south-west of the Australian city of Perth.

The Australian parliament in the capital, Canberra, observed a moment of silence on Wednesday for passengers of the missing flight, which included six Australians.

Daniel Tan says he will "not give up hope" that his brother is alive until wreckage is found

Some relatives of the passengers are refusing to accept their loved ones have died, saying no wreckage has been found.

There were angry scenes in Beijing after the Malaysian prime minister said analysis of satellite data showed the plane had almost certainly ended its journey in the southern Indian Ocean.

On Tuesday, dozens of Chinese relatives staged a protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing to demand more information. Of the 239 people on board flight MH370, 153 were Chinese nationals.

Search area narrowed

Rough seas and heavy rain forced the air and sea search to be suspended on Tuesday, but on Wednesday morning, Amsa said conditions had improved, and posted on its Facebook page that the first flights had resumed.

It said seven military and five civilian planes would be taking part and a total of six countries were now involved - Australia, New Zealand, the US, Japan, China and the South Korea.

Royal Australia Air Force AP-3C Orion takes off from RAAF Base Pearce in Perth, Australia. 26 March 2014 Search flights have been taking off from RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia
Inmarsat map showing search area. 25 March 2014 Satellite analysis by UK firm Inmarsat has helped to narrow the search
Lido hotel, Beijing 26 March Chinese relatives of some of the passengers have held emotional protests in Beijing

Australian warship HMAS Success is searching an area where two objects - so far unidentified - were seen this week, Amsa said.

A Chinese polar supply ship is also due in the area with other Chinese vessels on their way.

However, forecasters warn that weather conditions in the search area will worsen in the next 36 hours.

Manifest for Flight MH370

  • 153 Chinese
  • 38 Malaysians
  • 7 Indonesians
  • 6 Australians
  • 5 Indians
  • 4 French
  • 3 Americans
  • 2 each from New Zealand, Ukraine, Canada and Iran
  • One each from Russia, Taiwan, Netherlands

Source: Malaysia Airlines

Experts say that even if debris is found, it could be months or years before the plane itself and its flight recorders are recovered.

David Ferreira, an oceanographer at the UK's University of Reading, said little is known about the topography of the seabed in that area.

"We know much more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean floor in that part of the Indian Ocean," he said.

Although there have been several sightings of debris, none has yet been confirmed as being linked to the plane.

Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said that, as a result of the latest analysis, the area of search has narrowed from 2.24m sq nautical miles to 469,407 sq nautical miles.

Operations in a northern corridor - one of two vast areas where the plane might have ended its journey - have been called off, he added.

The reasons for the loss of the flight remain a mystery.

China has asked to see the data on which Malaysia's conclusion that the flight ended in the Indian Ocean was based.

In Beijing, angry relatives of the passengers released a statement accusing the Malaysian government of trying to "delay, distort and hide the truth".

The father of an Indonesian passenger on board the plane has filed what his lawyers call a "multi-million dollar litigation process" against Malaysia Airlines and Boeing, the makers of the aircraft.

Map showing possible flight routes and search zone for flight MH370
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