Search teams spot colors of Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane in Indian Ocean

Written by Associated Press | Kuala Lumpur | Updated: Mar 31 2014, 22:08pm hrs
Malaysia AirlinesA relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 wipes her tears as she waits for a briefing by Malaysian officials at a hotel in Beijing. AP
A Chinese aircraft flying over the search zone for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on Saturday spotted several objects floating in Indian Ocean, including two bearing colors of the missing plane, but it was not immediately clear whether they were related to the investigation, officials said.

A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 spotted three floating objects, China's official Xinhua News Agency said, a day after several planes and ships combing the newly targeted area closer to mainland Australia saw several other objects.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters near Kuala Lumpur after meeting several families of passengers on the Malaysia Airlines plane that there was no new information on the objects spotted Friday, which could just be just sea trash or could be from the jetliner, which went missing three weeks ago.

MH370

A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 prays at a praying room at Lido Hotel. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said there was no time limit on the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, missing for more than three weeks in the Indian Ocean with 239 people on board.(Reuters)

"I've got to wait to get the reports on whether they have retrieved those objects. ... Those will give us some indication," said Hishammuddin, who was accompanied by his wife and children as he visited the relatives at a hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

Relatives and friends of the passengers onboard ill-fated Malaysia Airlines MH370 missing plane said they were tortured by the uncertainty over the fate of their loved ones, as they wait for hard evidence that the plane had crashed.

"This is the trauma of maybe he's dead, maybe he's not. Maybe he's still alive and we need to find him. Maybe he died within the first hour of the flight, and we don't know," Sarah Bajc, the American girlfriend of U.S. passenger Philip Wood, said in Beijing.

"I mean, there's absolutely no way for me to reconcile that in my heart," she said.

MH370

A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 cries as he prays at a praying room at Lido Hotel, in Beijing March 31, 2014. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said there was no time limit on the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, missing for more than three weeks in the Indian Ocean with 239 people on board. A total of 20 aircraft and ships will resume scouring a massive area in the Indian Ocean some 2,000 km (Reuters)

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said that objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 until they are 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," the agency said.

Also see: Malaysia failed to check its passport database prior to Flight MH 370's disappearance: Interpol

MH370

Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein speaks about the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 during a news conference. Fresh objects spotted by planes searching for the missing Malaysian passenger jet in a new area of the southern Indian Ocean have again raised hopes of unravelling the three-week old mystery.(Reuters)

The three objects spotted by the Chinese plane Saturday were white, red and orange in color, the Xinhua report said. White and red were among the colors on the outside of the missing Boeing 777.

An image captured a day earlier by a New Zealand plane showed a white rectangular object floating in the sea, but it was not clear whether it was related to the missing jet or was just sea trash.

Flight 370 disappeared March 8 while bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and investigators have been puzzled over what happened aboard the plane, with speculation ranging from equipment failure and a botched hijacking to terrorism or an act by one of the pilots.

MH370

Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein comforts a relative of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 . Newly analyzed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising hopes searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that Flight 370 crashed in the Indian Ocean on March 8 with 239 people aboard. (AP)

The latter was fueled by reports that the pilot's home flight simulator had files deleted from it, but Hishimmuddin said checks, including ones by the FBI, turned up no new information.

Also see: Malaysia Airlines MH370: 7 'treasured' secrets plane's black boxes hold

MH370

A family member of a passenger onboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 holds a banner during a protest. The protest was also held to thank overseas Chinese who protested in front of the Malaysian Embassy in London. Fresh objects spotted by planes searching for a missing Malaysian passenger jet in a new area of the southern Indian Ocean have again raised hopes of unravelling the three-week old mystery.(Reuters)

"What I know is that there is nothing sinister from the simulators, but of course that will have to be confirmed by the chief of police," he said.

Newly analyzed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising hopes searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean with 239 people aboard.

That would also help narrow the hunt for the wreckage and the plane's black boxes, which could contain clues to what caused the plane to be so far off-course.

MH370

Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and wife Tengku Datin Seri Marsilla Tengku Abdullah talks with relatives of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at a hotel. Newly analyzed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising hopes searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that Flight 370 crashed in the Indian Ocean on March 8 with 239 people aboard. (AP)

The U.S. Navy has already sent equipment that can detect pings from the back 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 time frame. Other officials have said it could take days for the ship - the Ocean Shield - to reach the search area.

The newly targeted zone is nearly 1,130 kilometers (700 miles) northeast of sites the searchers have crisscrossed for the past week. The redeployment came after analysts determined that the Boeing 777 may have been traveling faster than earlier estimates and would therefore have run out of fuel sooner.

Search planes were sent out Saturday from Perth, Australia, in a staggered manner, enabling at least one plane to be over the area for most of the daylight hours. The new search area is closer to Perth than the previous one, with a flying time of 2 1/2 hours each way, allowing for five hours of search time, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

AMSA said five P-3 Orions - three from Australia and one each from Japan and New Zealand - plus a Japanese coast guard jet, the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76, and one civilian jet acting as a communications relay, took part Saturday.

Abbott said the job of locating the debris was still difficult. "We should not underestimate the difficulty of this work - it is an extraordinarily remote location."

If investigators can determine that the plane went down in the newly targeted zone - which spans about 319,000 square kilometers (123,000 square miles), roughly the size of Poland - recovery of its flight data and cockpit voice recorders could be complicated.

Much of the sea floor in the area is about 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) below the surface, but depths may reach a maximum of about 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) at its easternmost edge.

The hunt for the plane focused first on the Gulf of Thailand, along the plane's planned path. But when radar data showed it had veered sharply west, the search moved to the Andaman Sea, off the western coast of Malaysia, before pivoting to the southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia.

That change was based on analysis of satellite data. But officials said a reexamination and refinement of that analysis indicated the aircraft was traveling faster than previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel use and reducing the possible distance it could have flown before going down. Just as a car loses gas efficiency when driving at high speeds, a plane will get less out of a tank of fuel when it flies faster.

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