Chinese ships search new area for flight MH370

Malaysian minister says country will see investigation through to final conclusion

Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 10:20

Chinese ships trawled a new area in the Indian Ocean for a missing Malaysian passenger jet today, as the search for flight MH370 entered its fourth week amid a series of false dawns over sightings of debris.

Australian authorities coordinating the operation moved the search 1,100 km north yesterday after new analysis of radar and satellite data concluded the Malaysia Airlines plane travelled faster and for a shorter distance after vanishing from civilian radar screens on March 8th.

A Chinese military aircraft spotted three suspicious objects today in the new search area some 1,850 km west of Perth, coloured white, red and orange respectively, the official Xinhua news agency said.

That sighting follows reports of “multiple objects of various colours” by international flight crews yesterday, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). Some looked like they were from fishing boats and nothing could be confirmed until they were recovered by ships, it added.

“We’re hopeful to relocate some of the objects we were seeing yesterday,” Royal New Zealand Air Force Squadron Leader Flight Lieutenant Leon Fox said, before flying out to the search zone on an Orion P-3. “Hopefully some of the ships in the area will be able to start picking it up and give us an indication of what we were seeing.”

The Chinese navy vessel Jinggangshan, which carries two helicopters, reached the new search area early today and it was expected to focus on searching for plane surfaces, oil slicks and life jackets in a sea area of some 6,900 sq km. Another four Chinese vessels and one from Australia were on the way but would not arrive until late in the day.

Malaysia says the Boeing 777, which vanished less than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was likely diverted deliberately but investigators have turned up no apparent motive or other red flags among the 227 passengers or the 12 crew.

US officials close to the investigation said the FBI found nothing illuminating in data it had received from computer equipment used by MH370’s pilots, including a home-made flight simulator.

The search has involved more than two dozen countries and 60 aircraft and ships but has been bedevilled by regional rivalries and an apparent reluctance to share potentially crucial information due to security concerns.

Two Malaysian military aircraft, which arrived in Perth today, are expected to join the search party tomorrow.

The Malaysian government has come under strong criticism from China, home to more than 150 of the passengers, where relatives of the missing have accused the government of “delays and deception”.

More than 20 Chinese relatives staged a brief protest today outside the Lido hotel in Beijing where families have been staying for the past three weeks, demanding evidence of the plane’s fate.