PERTH, March 22 – The suspicious objects spotted by satellite in the southern Indian Ocean remains “the best lead” in the massive search for the Malaysian airliner that went missing with 227 passengers, including five Indians, on board, Australia’s acting prime minister said here Saturday.
The objects might have either drifted or sunk, but “if there’s something to be found, I’m confident this search will find it”, acting Prime Minister Warren Truss told a press conference. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is currently on an official visit to Papua New Guinea.
The hunt will continue “indefinitely” until “we are absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile”, he said. “That day is not in sight.”
In response to questions from Xinhua, he said there are many explanations for the satellite images provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) but they remain “a very credible lead”.
What Australia needs to do now is exert all possible efforts to search for the missing plane, he said.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.
The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.
Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.
The passenger manifesto named the five Indians as Vinod Koelkar, Chetana Koelkar, Swanand Koelkar, Chandrika Sharma and Kranti Shirsath.
On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Abbott said that satellite images had spotted two objects in the southern Indian Ocean possibly related to the missing passenger jet.
The discovery led the multinational search forces to focus on a 36,000-square-km sea area about 2,500 km southwest of Perth, but so far there have been no findings of note.
Earlier Saturday, AMSA said that search operations for the missing Malaysian airliner resumed in the morning in southern Indian Ocean in good weather.
“The search operations for the missing plane have resumed today (Saturday). The weather conditions are good,” an AMSA spokesperson told IANS on the phone in Canberra.
The AMSA said so far no sightings have been reported and the current search area, was identified based on satellite images provided by the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organization Thursday morning.
Analysis of the satellite images identified two objects possibly related to the missing passenger jet. The images have been assessed to be credible but it is also possible that they are not related to the missing plane, AMSA said.
In its latest media statement, the AMSA said it has tasked three Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orions, a New Zealand P3 Orion and two ultra long-range commercial jets to search a 36,000-sq-km area.
The two commercial jets and a RAAF P3 Orion will be the first aircraft to depart from Perth for the search area. These aircraft were due for departure around 9 a.m.
A total of 10 State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers from Western Australia have been tasked as air observers on the commercial jets. On Friday, seven SES volunteers from the Australian state of Victoria were also tasked as air observers.
The AMSA runs a training programme across the country to train SES volunteers in air observation for searches such as this.
Two merchant ships are also in the search area.
Six merchant ships have assisted in the search since a shipping broadcast was issued by the AMSA Monday.
The Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Success is also en route to the search area and is due in the area late Saturday afternoon, the AMSA said. — IANS