AUSTRALIAN and Chinese aircraft scouring the southern Indian Ocean for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 have reportedly seen a number of objects floating in the Indian Ocean.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said an Australian search plane had sighted two objects - one circular and greenish grey in colour and the second orange and rectangular - and told parliament a naval vessel hoped to be able to recover them soon.
Earlier, a Chinese plane crew reportedly sighted a white, square-shaped object in an area identified as containing possible objects from the flight, but an American navy aircraft was unable to find the debris.
The new development came as the United States prepared to move a specialised device that can locate black boxes into the region.
Satellite images from Australia and China had earlier identified possible debris in the area that may be linked to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
The Chinese crew sighted the object in the southern Indian Ocean search area today. It reported the coordinates to the Australian command centre, which is leading the multinational search
The find was also reported to the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon which is on its way to the area, according to the Chinese Xinhua News Agency.
‘Black box locator’
The US Pacific command said it was sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located.
The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability so that if the wreck site is located, it can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet.
Commander Chris Budde, a US Seventh Fleet operations officer, said: “This movement is simply a prudent effort to preposition equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area so that if debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as possible since the battery life of the black box’s pinger is limited.”
There was no sign the move was because of any break in the mystery of the plane, but rather as a preparation.
The Chinese plane was one of two that joined the search today from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft involved in the search to 10.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s rescue co-ordination centre said the weather in the area, about 2,500 miles from Perth, was expected to deteriorate with rain likely.
Australian transport minister Warren Truss said “nothing of note” was found yesterday, which he described as a “fruitless day”.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll stick at it,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio before the first aircraft left Perth at dawn.
“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.”
A cyclone bearing down on the Australian north-west coast “could stir up less favourable weather,” he said.
Flight 370 vanished while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search that has turned up no confirmed pieces and nothing conclusive on what happened to the jet.
The southern Indian Ocean is thought to be a potential area to find the jet because Malaysian authorities have said pings sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs.
One is a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, and the other a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.
Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.