Severe weather has halted an air and sea search for a
Malaysia Airlines passenger jet presumed crashed in the
southern Indian Ocean, frustrating hopes of finding what new
satellite images showed could be a large debris field.
An international search team of 11 military and civilian
aircraft and five ships had been heading to an area where
more than 100 objects that could be from the Boeing 777 had
been identified by French satellite pictures earlier this
"The forecast in the area was calling for severe icing,
severe turbulence and near zero visibility," said Lieutenant
Commander Adam Schantz, the officer in charge of the U.S.
Navy Poseidon P8 maritime surveillance aircraft detachment.
"Anybody who's out there is coming home and all additional
sorties from here are cancelled."
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is
coordinating the operation, confirmed flights had been
cancelled and ships were leaving the search area due to the
Flight MH370 is thought to have crashed on March 8 with the
loss of all 239 people aboard after flying thousands of miles
The latest satellite images were captured by France-based
Airbus Defence & Space on Monday and showed 122 potential
objects in a 400 sq km area of ocean.
"We have now had four separate satellite leads, from
Australia, China and France, showing possible debris,"
Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told
a news conference in Kuala Lumpur late Wednesday. "It is now
imperative that we link the debris to MH370."
The objects varied in size from one metre to 23 metres in
length, he said.
Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than
an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing,
and investigators believe someone on the flight may have shut
off the plane's communications systems. Theories range from a
hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the
pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical
Partial military radar tracking showed the plane turning west
off its scheduled course over the South China Sea and then
recrossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control
of a skilled pilot.
The logistical difficulties of the search have been
highlighted by the failure so far to get a lock on possible
debris, despite the now numerous satellite images and direct
visual sightings from aircraft and ships.
The search area, some 2500km southwest of Perth, has some of
the deepest and roughest waters in the world, roiled by the
"Roaring Forties" winds that cut across the sea.
The winds are named for the area between latitude 40 degrees
and 50 degrees, where there is no land mass to slow down
gusts that create huge waves.
One day had already been lost earlier this week because
conditions were too dangerous for the search crews, which
come from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, China,
Japan and South Korea.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak this week confirmed
Flight MH370 had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, citing
satellite-data analysis of the plane's flight path by British
Recovery of wreckage could unlock clues about why and how the
plane had diverted so far off course in one of aviation's
most puzzling mysteries.
The United States has sent an undersea Navy drone and a
high-tech black box detector which will be fitted to an
Australian ship due in Perth in the coming days.
The so-called black boxes - the cockpit voice recorder and
flight data recorder - record what happens during flight, but
time is running out to pick up their locator beacons, which
stop about a month after a crash due to limited battery life.
The prolonged and so far fruitless search and investigation
have taken a toll, with dozens of distraught relatives of
Chinese passengers clashing with police in Beijing on
Tuesday, accusing Malaysia of "delays and deception".
Malaysia's confused initial response to the plane's
disappearance and a perception of poor communications have
enraged many relatives of the more than 150 Chinese
passengers and have strained ties between Beijing and Kuala
The family of Paul Weeks, a New Zealander on board the
Malaysia Airlines flight, said they had been angered by the
way the airline has dealt with the families of passengers.
"The whole situation has been handled appallingly, incredible
insensitivity, lack of information," Weeks' sister Sara
Weeks, told Radio Live in New Zealand.
She said her sister-in-law never received a phone call from
the airline, only a text message, to say that her husband was