CANBERRA: An Australian plane spotted two objects in the search for Malaysia’s missing jet in the southern Indian Ocean and was sending a ship to investigate, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Monday, with Malaysian authorities saying they could be reached “within hours”.
“The crew on board the Orion reported seeing two objects, the first a grey or green circular object and the second an orange rectangular object,” Abbott told parliament on Monday evening.
They are different to the pieces seen by a Chinese plane earlier in the day and were located by an Australian RAAF P3 Orion about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth.
The HMAS Success, which has a crane capable of retrieving any wreckage, was in the area and attempting to recover the objects.
“HMAS Success is in the vicinity and it is possible that the objects could be received within the next few hours, or by tomorrow morning at the latest,” Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a press conference in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
Abbott said a US Navy Poseidon, a second Royal Australian Orion, and a Japanese Orion are also en route to the area.
“I caution again . . . that we don’t know whether any of these objects are from MH370, they could be flotsam,” he said.
“Nevertheless we are hopeful that we can recover these objects soon and they will take us a step closer to resolving this tragic mystery,” Abbott added.
Earlier Monday, a Chinese aircrew searching for vanished Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 reported seeing “suspicious objects” in the area.
The larger objects were “white and square,” the state-run Xinhua news agency said with Chinese icebreaker Xuelong on its way to the area.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished without warning on March 8 after suddenly veering off course over the South China Sea en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew.
‘Clutching’ at information
China’s Xinhua news agency said searchers spotted “two relatively big floating objects with many white smaller ones scattered within a radius of several kilometers,” citing a reporter aboard a Chinese aircraft.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said attempts would be made to reach the objects.
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss earlier cautioned against false hopes in a search that has hit a number of dead ends.
“We’re just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts,” he told national radio.
The US Navy added to the sense of an approaching denouement, ordering a specialized black box locator sent to the region around 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth.
Recovery of the black box will be crucial to determining what happened to the Boeing 777.
Malaysia has said the plane was deliberately diverted by someone on board but the absence of firm evidence has fueled a host of theories, and tormented family members seeking information on their loved ones.
The listening device is able to locate black boxes as deep as 6,100 meters (20,000 feet), the US Seventh Fleet said in a statement. The area being searched ranges from 3,000-4,000 meters deep.
Moving the device into place was aimed at ensuring “we will be able to respond as quickly as possible since the battery life of the black box’s pinger is limited,” the statement said.
The 30-day signal from the black box is due to fail in less than two weeks.
The focus of the search had initially centered on waters around Southeast Asia but swung deep into the Indian Ocean last week after initial satellite images depicted large floating objects there.