Two objects spotted possibly related to MH370

March 20, 2014 - 8:41:12 am

SYDNEY: Two objects possibly related to the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been sighted in the southern Indian Ocean, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Thursday in a potential breakthrough.

Abbott told parliament "new and credible information" had come to light nearly two weeks after the plane vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.

He said an Australian air force Orion had already been diverted to look into the objects with three more long-range surveillance planes to follow.

"New and credible information has come to light in relation to the search in the southern Indian Ocean," he said, without saying exactly where.

Australia has taken charge of the search in the vast and remote area.

"The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has received information based on satellite information of objects possibly related to the search," Abbott said, adding that he had informed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

"Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified."

But he warned against drawing any premature conclusions.

"We must keep in mind the task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult and it may turn out that they are not related to the search for flight MH370," he said.

A source familiar with the find told The Australian newspaper the sightings were "credible" and consistent with "what you'd normally find in such circumstances".

AMSA was due to hold a news conference in Canberra at 0430 GMT.

The Malaysian government believes the jet was deliberately diverted and flew for several hours after leaving its scheduled flight path either north towards Central Asia, or towards the southern Indian Ocean.

Authorities in Kuala Lumpur on Monday asked Canberra to take responsibility for the "southern vector" of the operation to locate the Boeing 777, which disappeared on March 8. Most of the passengers were Chinese or Malaysian; six were Australian.

Australian, US and New Zealand surveillance planes have been scouring a huge tract of the southern Indian Ocean since Tuesday with the search focused on an area of 305,000 square kilometres or 122,000 square miles, some 2,600 kilometres southwest of Perth.

On Tuesday, Australian officials said it was like looking for a "needle in a haystack" and said the chances of finding any surface wreckage were slim, with planes not equipped to look underwater.

The potential breakthrough came after US President Barack Obama designated the search for the plane a "top priority" for his government.

As Malaysia shared evidence with the FBI and sought to pacify relatives' anger at the lack of progress. (AFP)