Australian authorities are intensifying their search efforts in the Indian Ocean southwest of Perth where satellite images showed some unidentified debris that might be connected to the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200.
China announced Saturday it also had a new satellite image from the area that showed debris. No more details were given.
Malaysia’s defense and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein interrupted a media briefing he was giving Saturday to read a memo he was given from Beijing. "The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received satellite image of floating objects in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify," he said.
In addition to Australian and other military surveillance aircraft scanning the area, Australia’s HMAS Success was expected to join search efforts Saturday. A merchant ship and a private business jet are also aiding.
China has deployed five ships, three ship-borne helicopters and three surveillance aircraft, which are heading toward the southern corridor of the search area. The majority of the 227 passengers on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were Chinese. There were also 12 crew members, including the pilot and co-pilot. The aircraft disappeared from radar on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing March 8.
Japan is also deploying assets to Perth, including two P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft. The UK’s Royal Navy HMS Echo is heading towards the southern Indian Ocean to join what has become the largest multi-national search operation ever in commercial aviation history. Almost two weeks since the aircraft disappeared, there remains a paucity of information as to what happened to MH370, how or why. Many other countries are contributing assets and expertise to the search, including the US.
At a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur Friday, minister Hishammuddin said he had been in touch with the French delegation, which is led by the French Ambassador to Malaysia, and includes the man who led the investigation into the Air France flight 447 crash.
They have agreed to assist us with their considerable experience and expertise,” he said. AF447, an Airbus A330-200, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 during a flight from Brazil to France, killing all 228 people on board. The aircraft disappeared from radar and it was several days before wreckage was located in the ocean and almost two years before the aircraft’s data and voice recorders could be retrieved.
Minister Hishammuddin also said he would be requesting further special assets, including remotely-operated vehicles for deep ocean salvage, from the US defense secretary.
“The Kazakhstan authorities have assured us that they have found no trace of MH370, and we are awaiting permission for Kazakhstan to be used as a staging point for search operations,” he said. The northern arc of the search area – no longer considered the main focus but not being ruled out until more firm evidence is discovered – stretches from western Malaysia to Kazakstan assuming the aircraft reached its onboard fuel limits of around seven hours.
The Malaysian minister also addressed the issue of raw imagery data that satellite company Inmarsat provided the investigations team on March 12.
“This type of data is not normally used in investigations of this sort. It is only because we have so little other information to go on in this difficult and unprecedented situation that the data is being used,” he said.
“Upon receiving the raw data, the Malaysian authorities immediately discussed with the US team how this information might be used. The US team and the investigations team then sent the data to the US, where further processing was needed before it could be used.”
Hishammuddin said the data was refined and analyzed independently by US and UK experts and their conclusions, which concurred, presented the evening of March 14. This is what prompted the search operation to immediately shift to the northern and southern corridors.