Objects spotted; weather deteriorating

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft lands at the RAAF Base Pearce near Perth yesterday. REUTERS/Jason Reed
A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft lands at the RAAF Base Pearce near Perth yesterday. REUTERS/Jason Reed
The search for the missing Malaysian airliner could be hindered by deteriorating weather later today as more ships are expected reach the area where a number of objects were spotted yesterday.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Orion search aircraft located 11 objects, including a fishing buoy, about 1600km west of Perth yesterday.

Four other aircraft also spotted objects after the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) yesterday moved the search area north, to reflect the latest analysis from Malaysian air crash investigators.

The authority said one vessel, the Chinese maritime patrol ship Haixun 1, had been on the scene to relocate objects from first light today.

Six ships were expected to reach the search area today, but they were due to arrive later in the day or after dark.

By then, the weather was expected to deteriorate, potentially hindering the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

However, AMSA said today's weather was initially expected to be suitable for searching.

Eight aircraft would take part in the search today, including the RNZAF Orion which spotted the objects yesterday. The New Zealand plane was due to depart from Perth about 5pm NZT.

Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short, who heads New Zealand's Joint Forces, told a press conference in Wellington this morning that the Orion had found 11 objects yesterday.

"Those objects turned out to be rectangular in shape, nothing bigger than 1 metre, some of them down to half a metre in size,'' he said.

The RNZAF Orion photographed the objects and dropped a reference marker nearby. A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Orion then relocated the objects a short time later.

Air Vice-Marshal Short said the objects would have to be retrieved by ships and examined in Perth before they could be identified as coming from the missing plane.

"Our crew ... couldn't identify anything that would say it was definitely from the Malaysian aircraft, and those images are being analysed as well.

"I think the main issue is that those objects will have to be picked up by a ship so they can physically examine them.''

Air Vice-Marshal Short would not speculate on what the objects might be, but added that fuel tanks from wings, composite materials and plastics from an aircraft would float.

"So it's not unusual to have that sort of thing on the surface.''

The objects were all close together, but others had been found hundreds of miles away.

The RNZAF Orion has been searching with a new crew since yesterday.

"They're pleased that for their first flight from taking over from the previous crew that they've actually found these objects, so their morale is very high,'' Air Vice-Marshal Short said.

"It is always good when we find something, we get quite buoyant about that.''

AMSA said today's search area had been determined by applying the effects of weather and currents to the analysis of likely aircraft movements provided by Malaysian air crash investigators.

It said the objects of various colours spotted yesterday could not be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they were relocated and recovered by ships

"It is not known how much flotsam, such as from fishing activities, is ordinarily there. At least one distinctive fishing object has been identified.''

 

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