China: Plane spots 3 objects in search for Malaysia jet

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia —Planes and ships combed the newly targeted area off the west coast of Australia on Saturday for possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner, and three suspicious objects were reportedly spotted.

Xinhua News Agency said that the Chinese military plane Ilyushin IL-76 sighted the objects of white, red and orange colors respectively, from an altitude of 300 yards in the search area for a missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

The U.S. Navy has sent equipment that can detect pings from the black boxes, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Sydney that the equipment would be put on an Australian naval ship soon.

"It will be taken to the most prospective search area and if there is good reason to deploy it, it will be deployed," he said, without giving a timeframe. Other officials have said it could take days for the ship — the Ocean Shield — to reach the search area.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said a cold front would bring rain, low clouds and reduced visibility over the southern part of the search area, with moderate winds and swells of up to 6 feet. Conditions will improve Sunday, although rain, drizzle and low clouds are still likely.

Search planes were sent out Saturday from Perth, Australia, in a staggered manner, so at least one plane will be over the area for most of the daylight hours. It is also closer than the previous search area, with a flying time of 2 ½ hours each way, allowing for five hours of search time, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Malaysia Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was accompanied by his wife and children as he visited relatives of those aboard MH370 at a hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

On Friday, a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane spotted objects, including two rectangular items that were blue and gray in the new search area for the missing jetliner that is are closer to the Australian mainland.

Australian officials shifted their search for the missing Malaysian jetliner by nearly 700 miles early Friday, citing "a new credible lead'' about the path of the aircraft and where debris may be located.

Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Air Transport Safety Bureau, said a revised analysis of radar data prompted the agency to refocus the search in the Indian Ocean off Perth. The analysis indicates that the plane was flying faster than previously estimated between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before radar contact was lost, Dolan said.

Based on that new speed data, analysts calculated increased fuel usage and a reduced distance the aircraft could have covered with power.

The new search area is approximately 198,000 square miles in size and 1,150 miles west of Perth, John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division said. The move, about 685 miles to the northeast of the previous search area, was based on updated advice from an international investigation team working with the search, Young said.

The new location is also based on an assessment by Australian experts, the United States Coast Guard and commercial companies that took into account the weather and the drift any wreckage would be expected to have taken in the 21 days since the plane went missing.

Malaysia's Hussein said in Kuala Lumpur in his daily briefing Friday that the new search area is consistent with the objects that have been previously sighted by satellites. He said also said that while the search has moved closer to land the conditions are still difficult. However, the search area to the north is not expected to face the same rough weather that forced several delays in the hunt for debris further to the south.

All of these calculations are best estimates and, "will remain a somewhat inexact science," Dolan cautioned.

Young said the team had "moved on" from the previous search area and that the hunt for the missing plane was no longer active there.

Thirteen aircraft from six countries have been deployed to the new search area, Young said.

On Thursday, a Thai satellite detected about 300 objects floating in the Indian Ocean a day after a French satellite showed that 122 objects were floating near the search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner.

The son of missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah says he's ignoring speculation about his father's role in the loss of Flight 370 and awaiting confirmation that it crashed.

In Beijing, some relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers on the plane said Saturday that the shift in the search area added to their confusion and frustration.

"What on earth is the Malaysian government doing?" said Wang Chunjiang, whose brother was a passenger. "Is there anything more that they are hiding from us?"


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