Malaysia: ocean objects are new lead in MH370 hunt

Australia found two objects possibly related to the search for the missing Malaysia plane MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean

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The discovery by satellite of two objects in the southern Indian Ocean is being treated as a lead in the search for a Malaysian airliner missing for 12 days, Reuters reported the top official in charge of the investigation as saying on Thursday.

“I can confirm we have a new lead...and I am meeting the Australian delegation now,” Reuters quoted acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein as telling reporters in Kuala Lumpur, where the investigation into the missing airliner is based.

He was speaking after Australia said it had sent aircraft to investigate two objects spotted by satellite floating in the sea.

“As we have been doing from day one, we have been following every single lead, and this time I just hope that it is a positive development,” Hishammuddin said.

“I was told that assets have been deployed to the area to verify what has already been said earlier this morning, and we are waiting for some information. It is too early to say which area and whether it is in the sea,” he said, adding he did not know what kind of possible debris was involved.

“Every lead is a hope. We want to verify, we want to corroborate.”

Investigators hope to provide a further update within a few hours, he said.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Thursday that two objects possibly related to the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been sighted in the southern Indian Ocean.

Abbott called it “credible information,” adding that after “specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying.

But Abbott cautioned that locating the objects could be extremely difficult and “it may turn out that they are not related to the search for flight MH370.”

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.

24-meter object

Meanwhile, the Australian authorities said Thursday that the largest object is 24 meters (79 feet) while the second one is much smaller.

“The objects are relatively indistinct. The indication to me is of objects that are of a reasonable size and probably awash with water and bobbing up and down over the surface,” Agence France-Presse quoted Australian Maritime Safety Authority official John Young as saying.

“The largest... was assessed as being 24 meters. There is another one that is smaller than that.”

Military planes from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand were covering a search region over the southern Indian Ocean that was narrowed down on Wednesday from 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) to 305,000 square kilometers (117,000 square miles).

The hunt for the Boeing 777 has been punctuated by several false leads since it disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand.

The news comes after Australia has taken charge of the search in the vast and remote area.

Top U.S. priority

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said finding out what happened to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane is a top priority for the United States.

In his first public comments on the mind-boggling disappearance, Obama said Wednesday that every available U.S. resource is being used in the search, including the FBI, the National Transportation Safety Board and others who deal with aviation.

(Reuters, AFP and Associated Press)