Thai satellite spots 300 objects in search for missing Malaysia jet
Bad weather prevents team of aircraft finding what may be large debris field
A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft grounded as severe weather conditions stops the air search today. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters
Bad weather has halted the air search for the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet today. The crew of a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft (above). Photograph: Reuters/ Michael Martina
A satellite image taken on Monday of more than 300 floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean released by Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency. Photograph: Reuters
Bad weather has halted an air and sea search for a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet presumed crashed in the southern Indian Ocean today. A Republic of Korea Navy aircraft is watched by an official as it arrives at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce in the north of Perth. Photograph: Reuters
High winds and icy weather halted the air search today for a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet presumed crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, just as new satellite images emerged showing what could be a large debris field from the plane. The latest possible sighting of wreckage from Flight MH370, which went missing 19 days ago, was captured by a Thai satellite in roughly the same remote expanse of sea as earlier images reported by France, Australia and China.
“We detected floating objects, perhaps more than 300,” Anond Snidvongs, the head of Thailand’s space technology development agency.
“We have never said that the pieces are part of MH370 but have so far identified them only as floating objects.”
An international search team of 11 military and civilian aircraft and five ships had been heading for an area where more than 100 objects that could be from the Boeing 777 had been identified by French satellite pictures earlier this week, but severe weather forced the planes to turn back.
“The forecast in the area was calling for severe icing, severe turbulence and near-zero visibility,” said Lieutenant Commander Adam Schantz, the officer in charge of the U.S. Navy Poseidon P8 maritime surveillance aircraft detachment.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the effort, confirmed flights had been called off but said ships continued to search despite battering waves.
“It’s the nature of search and rescue. It’s a fickle beast,” Flying Officer Peter Moore, the captain of an Australian AP-3C Orion, told reporters aboard the plane.
“This is incredibly important to us. The reality is we have 239 people whose families want some information and closure.”
The Malaysian airliner, on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, is thought to have crashed with the loss of all 239 people aboard after flying thousands of kilometers off course.
The objects spotted by the Thai satellite were between 2 metres and 16 metres in size and were in an area around 2,700 km southwest of Perth, Snidvongs said.
The pictures were taken on Monday, a day after a satellite operated by France-based Airbus Defence and Space spotted 122 potential objects in a 400 sq km area of ocean around 2,500 km southwest of the Western Australia city. MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after take-off and investigators believe someone on board may have shut off the plane’s communications systems.
Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.
Partial military radar tracking showed the plane turning west off its scheduled course over the South China Sea and then recrossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.
The logistical difficulties of the search have been highlighted by the failure so far to get a lock on possible debris, despite the now numerous satellite images and direct visual sightings from aircraft and ships.
One day had already been lost earlier this week because weather conditions were too dangerous, but Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said the forecast for Friday was better.
Recovery of wreckage could unlock clues about why and how the plane diverted so far off course in one of aviation’s most puzzling mysteries.
The United States has sent an undersea Navy drone and a high-tech black box detector, which will be fitted to an Australian ship due in Perth in the coming days.
The so-called black boxes - the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder - record what happens during flight, but time is running out to pick up their locator beacons, which stop about a month after a crash due to limited battery life. The prolonged and so far fruitless search and investigation have taken a toll, with dozens of distraught relatives of 150 Chinese passengers clashing with police and accusing Malaysia of “delays and deception”.
China has repeatedly voiced its frustration with the efforts of Malaysia to find the plane.
China’s special envoy to Malaysia said on Thursday that Beijing was doing its best to push the Southeast Asian nation to coordinate the international search effort, state news agency Xinhua said.
Chinese insurance companies have started paying compensation to the families of passengers, Xinhua reported separately.
The family of Paul Weeks, a New Zealander on board the Malaysia Airlines flight, said they had been angered by the way the airline has dealt with the families of passengers.
“The whole situation has been handled appallingly, incredible insensitivity, lack of information,” Weeks’s sister, Sara Weeks, told Radio Live in New Zealand.
She said her brother’s wife had only received a text message to say that her husband was presumed dead.