Two objects possibly related to the search for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane have been identified, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.
Abbott told parliament “new and credible information” had come to light in the search for MH370.
“The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has received information based on satellite information of objects possibly related to the search,” he said before question time.
“Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified.”
The prime minister said an Australian Air Force Orion had been diverted to locate the objects and was expected to arrive in the area Thursday afternoon.
“Three more aircraft will follow,” he said. “They are tasked for (a) more intensive follow up search.”
Abbott said he has informed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak of the developments.
But he warned against drawing any premature conclusions or hopes on the search.
“We must keep in mind the task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult and it may turn out that they are not related to the search for flight MH370,” Abbott said.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) revealed this afternoon that the imagery had been captured by its rescue coordination centre.
It indicates debris near the search zone in the Southern Indian Ocean, some 2300 kilometres southwest of Perth.
“They may not be related to the aircraft,” an AMSA statement said.
A RAAF aircraft arrived at the area just before 2pm (AEDT) and three more military aircraft, including two from the United States and New Zealand, are expected to reach the area later on Thursday.
An Australian Hercules will drop marker buoys in the area highlighted by the satellite imagery
The marker buoys provided information about water movement to assist drift modelling.
“They will provide an ongoing reference point if the task of relocating the objects becomes protracted,” AMSA said.
Weather conditions in the area are moderate but visibility is poor.
A merchant ship that responded to a shipping broadcast issued by Rescue Coordination Australia on Monday is expected to arrive in the area about 6pm (AEDT).
John Young, emergency response division general manager at AMSA, said the focus was to continue the search with all available ships and aircraft.
“The objects are relatively indistinct on the imagery,” he said.
“The are objects of a reasonable size and probably awash with water.”
The largest was assessed as being about 24 metres.
Young said the ocean in the area was thousands of metres deep.
“AMSA is doing its level best to find anyone that might have survived,” he said when asked what advice he had for families of the 239 people who were on the missing flight.
MH370 disappeared just hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early on Saturday March 8.
Young cautioned the objects would be difficult to locate.
“It’s probably the best lead we have right now but we have to get there, find them, see them, assess them, to know whether it’s really meaningful or not,” he said.
AMSA is concentrating in that area for now because it wants to find the objects and it wants to work out what they are.
Young said in AMSA’S experience there was usually debris floating out in that area, but on this occasion the size, and the fact that there were a number, made it worth looking at.
He cautioned against any hasty expectations of an outcome of the search because of unfavourable weather conditions.
“We may get a sighting, we may not. We may get it tomorrow, we may not,” he said.
“But we will continue to do this until we locate those objects or we are convinced that we cannot find them.”
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