Malaysia flight MH370: Indian Ocean search resumes

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Media captionAustralian PM Tony Abbott: "There is increasing hope that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft"

More planes have joined an increasingly international search of the south Indian Ocean for missing flight MH370.

Eight planes were sent out on Sunday over a wider search area after China released new images of possible debris.

Australia is leading the search and said it was investigating sightings of a wooden pallet and other items.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board.

Malaysian officials believe the plane was deliberately taken off course.

Based on information received from a satellite, the search has been in two distinct corridors - one stretching to the north-west of the last known location in the Malacca Straits and one to the south-west.

However, none of the countries on the northern corridor have reported any radar contact, and two sets of satellite images of possible debris in the south Indian Ocean have concentrated the search there.

Pallet sighting

The search is being co-ordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) from Perth in western Australia.

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Media captionAlastair Leithead reports on the announcement of a possible debris sighting from China

Eight search planes were involved in the search on Sunday, including four civil aircraft and a US P8 Poseidon.

Two Chinese IL-76 search planes have arrived in Perth but have not yet been deployed. Japan is sending two P3 Orions.

The Australian navy's HMAS Success is the only ship in the area, though others, including from the US, UK and China are on the way.

A key focus on Sunday was the sighting on Saturday of a wooden cargo pallet, along with belts or straps.

Mike Barton, operations coordinator at Amsa, said: "Part of the description was a wooden pallet and a number of other items which were nondescript around it and some belts of some different colours around it as well, strapping belts of different lengths."

He added: "We tried to re-find that yesterday, one of the New Zealand aircraft, and unfortunately they didn't find it. That's the nature of it - you only have to be off by a few hundred metres in a fast-travelling aircraft."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Eight planes were sent out on Sunday over a wider search area
Image copyright AP
Image caption A Japanese crew prepares to fly from Malaysia to Perth to join the operation
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The anxious wait continues for relatives in Beijing
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The flights to the search zone are long and tiring - New Zealand's Orion returns to Perth on Saturday

Pallets are used for shipping as well as plane cargo and Mr Barton cautioned the sighting "could be anything".

Amsa released a statement on Sunday's search, detailing the aircraft involved and saying the area would cover about 59,000 sq km (22,800 square miles).

Mr Barton said the sun and haze at a low altitude made the task for searchers tough.

The weather on Sunday was initially cloudy but it was hoped it might clear later.

'I miss my son'

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the sightings of objects were encouraging signs.

"Obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope - no more than hope, no more than hope - that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft," he said.

Image copyright Amsa
Image caption The Indian Ocean search was sparked by this satellite image taken on 16 March of an object 24m in size

China on Saturday released a satellite image showing an object floating in the southern Indian Ocean near to the area already being searched, some 2,500 km (1,550 miles) south-west of Perth.

The grainy image was released by China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The Xinhua state news agency said the latest satellite image was taken at about 04:00 GMT on 18 March and showed objects about 120km "south by west" from the site of possible debris shown in another satellite image from 16 March.

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein put a message on his Twitter account on Sunday urging a "prayer please" for the passengers and crew on flight MH370.

Relatives and friends are still waiting anxiously for news in hotels in Beijing and Malaysia.

In the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Kamariah Sharif, the mother of missing passenger Mohamad Razahan Zamani, told Reuters: "Allah give me strength and guidance, I can't tell you how much I miss my son. This has gone on so long. I pray that he is safe."