Searchers are targeting suspicious objects spotted by a Chinese plane looking for missing flight MH370. Ships, planes and satellites have been scouring the southern Indian Ocean. The US has sent a black box detector.
Australia, which is coordinating the multinational search for the missing Boeing 777, is responding to a sighting by a Chinese aircraft of two “relatively big” floating objects, with many white smaller ones scattered over several kilometers in a remote area of the Indian Ocean west of Perth.
The area was identified last week by satellite data as containing possible debris. The Chinese aircraft was one of two which joined the search on Sunday, with a total of 10 aircraft involved in Monday’s search operations.
Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the reported objects were within the search area and “attempts will be made to relocate them.”
Among the planes and vessels sent to follow up on the sighting is the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
Black box locator sent
The United States Navy is also sending a high-tech black box detector called a Towed Pinger Locator to the area. Black boxes record voices in a plane’s cockpit as well as flight data, giving vital clues in air accident investigations.
“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,” Commander Chris Budde, US Seventh Fleet Operations Officer, said.
He added that the device, which is pulled at slow speeds behind a ship , can detect “pings” – the signals emitted by a black box – up to 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) deep. The area being searched ranges from 3,000 to 4,000 meters deep.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared from civilian radar on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. There have since been no confirmed sightings of the plane.
The challenge of recovering the still-unidentified debris was made greater by adverse weather conditions. Rain was expected to hamper visibility in the search area on Monday, while tropical cyclone Gillian to the north could also stir up unfavorable weather.
Meanwhile, a Malaysia Airlines Airbus jet flying from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul was diverted to Hong Kong for an unscheduled landing early Monday after an on-board electricity generator failed.
“However, electrical power continued to be supplied by the Auxiliary Power Unit,” the airline said in a statement, adding that the Airbus A330-300 landed “uneventfully” in Hong Kong, with all 271 passengers being transferred to other flights.
se /slk (Reuters, AP, AFP)