Planes searching for missing jet report spotting possible debris in ocean
New satellite images show more than 100 objects floating in sea; U.S. black box detectors to be deployed.
Planes scouring the frigid southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian airplane reported spotting potential wreckage on Wednesday.
The reports from the planes followed the release of satellite images of more than 100 objects in the sea that could be debris from the Malaysian jet.
The latest sightings came as searchers stepped up efforts to find some trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, thought to have crashed on March 8 with the loss of all 239 people aboard after flying thousands of miles off course.
"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. "It is now imperative that we link the debris to MH370."
The latest images were captured by France-based Airbus Defense & Space on Monday and showed 122 potential objects in a 400 square kilometer area of ocean, Hishammuddin said. The objects varied in size from one meter to 23 meters 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.
A dozen aircraft from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea were once more scouring the seas some 2,500 km southwest of Perth in the hunt for wreckage on Wednesday, after bad weather forced the suspension of the search the previous day.
"The crash zone is as close to nowhere as it's possible to be but it's closer to Australia than anywhere else," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, before leading the country's parliament in a moment's silence.
"A considerable amount of debris has been sighted in the area where the flight was last recorded. Bad weather and inaccessibility have so far prevented any of it from being recovered. But we are confident that it will be."
Wednesday's good weather was unlikely to last, in an area renowned among mariners for high winds and big waves.
"This is only going to be a narrow window of opportunity by the looks of things, because another weather system is moving in for Thursday, which looks like that will bring an increase in winds again and also lead to a reduction in visibility through the rain associated with the cold front," Neil Bennett, a spokesman for Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, told Reuters.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak this week confirmed Flight MH370 had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
Citing satellite-data analysis by British company Inmarsat , he said there was no doubt the Boeing 777 came down in one of the most remote places on Earth.
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. Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.
Australia, China and France have all released satellite images over the past week showing possible debris in the same general area as the latest sighting, but no confirmed wreckage has been located.
An Australian navy ship returned to the area after being driven away by gale force winds and 20-metre waves on Tuesday, while a Chinese icebreaker and three Chinese navy vessels were also in the search zone.
Two Chinese ships were looking for a two-meter floating object spotted earlier in the day by an aircraft, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.
The U.S. has sent an undersea Navy drone and a high-tech black box detector which will be fitted to an Australian vessel due in Perth in the coming days.
Malaysia said on Tuesday that the "Towed Pinger Locator" would not arrive in the search area until April 5, which would give it only a few days to find the black box before the beacon battery would be expected to run out.
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