Flight MH370: 'Objects spotted' in new search area

An image of one of the objects spotted by a New Zealand plane on Friday This image of one the objects spotted was taken by a journalist on board the New Zealand plane

Five planes have spotted "objects" in the new area of the Indian Ocean being searched for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Australian officials say.

The sightings would need confirmation by ship, possibly on Saturday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said in a statement.

Earlier it was announced the search would now focus on an area 1,100km (700 miles) north-east of the previous zone.

The Beijing-bound airliner disappeared on 8 March with 239 people on board.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion first spotted "a number of objects white or light in colour and a fishing buoy", Amsa said.

Did previous photos show plane debris?

  • Satellite images so far could show anything from lost shipping containers or drifting garbage to fragments of Flight MH370
  • Among ocean experts, opinion differs over how much non-plane debris is in the area
  • Southern Indian Ocean is one of world's least researched areas
  • In absence of better data, retrieving floating debris can help narrow search for "black box" recorders
  • But shortage of live satellite data, turbulence and passage of time since flight's disappearance hamper search for debris

An Australian plane then went to relocate the items and spotted "two blue/grey rectangular objects", and three other planes reported similar sightings.

The Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 is in the search area and will be despatched to relocate the objects on Saturday, Amsa said.

Earlier, the Australian and Malaysian governments said the focus on the new search area was based on further analysis of radar data that showed the plane had been travelling faster, thus burning more fuel.

This would reduce the possible distance the aircraft travelled south into the Indian Ocean, officials said.

Search efforts had until Friday morning focused on an area some 2,500km (1,550 miles) to the south-west of the Australian city of Perth.

A Malaysian delegation at a hotel in Beijing A Malaysian delegation met relatives of those on board MH370 in Beijing
A cross and wreath in memory of those on board the lost Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is shown fixed to a fence surrounding Pearce Airbase Pearce airbase in West Australia has become a focus of the search
Map

Malaysian officials have concluded that, based on satellite data, the missing plane flew into the sea somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. So far no trace of it has been found.

Using satellite images, several nations have identified objects floating in the sea in that search area, but these have not been located and there is no evidence that they are related to the plane.

Acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the fact that the search area had moved did not discount the earlier satellite images of possible debris further south.

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
  • 24 March - Based on new calculations, Malaysian PM says "beyond reasonable doubt" that plane crashed in southern Indian Ocean with no survivors

"Because of ocean drift, this new search area could still be consistent with the potential objects identified by various satellite images over the past week," Mr Hishammuddin said.

Vast expanse

Mystery still surrounds the fate of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, which vanished less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

The airliner veered off course and lost contact with air traffic controllers between Malaysian and Vietnamese air-traffic control areas.

The vast expanse of ocean has turned the search into a major challenge.

Some relatives of the flight's 153 Chinese passengers have refused to accept the Malaysian account of events and have accused officials of withholding information.

Earlier, China's state news agency Xinhua reported that Chinese insurance firms had begun to offer payouts to the relatives.

On Thursday, Malaysia Airlines took out a full-page condolence advertisement in the New Straits Times, saying: "Our sincerest condolences go out to the loved ones of the 239 passengers, friends and colleagues. Words alone cannot express our enormous sorrow and pain."

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