New satellite images have revealed 122 objects in the southern Indian Ocean that could be debris from a Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Malaysia’s acting transport minister has announced.
The latest images come as searchers step up efforts to find some trace of the flight which had 239 passengers and crew on board, including six Australians.
It is thought to have crashed on March 8 after flying thousands of miles off course.
“It must be emphasised that we cannot tell whether the potential objects are from MH370,” Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference.
“Nevertheless, this is another new lead that will help direct the search operation.”
The images were captured by France-based Airbus Defence and Space on Sunday and showed 122 potential objects in a 400-square-kilometre area of ocean, Mr Hishammuddin said.
The objects varied in size from one metre to 23 metres in length, he said.
Mr Hishammuddin said the new satellite images were passed on to Australian authorities in Perth on Tuesday.
A dozen aircraft from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea had been scouring the seas about 2,500km south-west of Perth in the hunt for wreckage on Wednesday, after bad weather the previous day forced the suspension of the search.
“The crash zone is as close to nowhere as it’s possible to be but it’s closer to Australia than anywhere else,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, before leading Federal Parliament in a moment’s silence.
“A considerable amount of debris has been sighted in the area where the flight was last recorded. Bad weather and inaccessibility has so far prevented any of it from being recovered. But we are confident that it will be.”
Queenslanders Robert and Catherine Lawton, Brisbane couple Rodney and Mary Burrows and Gu Naijun and Li Yuan from New South Wales are presumed to have been killed when the flight crashed.
New Zealander Paul Weeks, who lived in Perth, was also on the flight.
Focus turns to recovering flight recorder
Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak this week confirmed flight MH370, which vanished while flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
Citing satellite-data analysis by British company Inmarsat, he said there was no doubt the Boeing 777 came down in one of the most remote places on Earth – an implicit admission that everyone on board had died.
Recovery of wreckage could unlock clues about why and how the plane had diverted so far off course in one of aviation’s most puzzling mysteries.
Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.
The US has sent equipment to Perth to help locate the so-called black box that recorded the flight’s data as well as the final two hours of chatter in the cockpit.
Time is running out to find the bright orange-coloured box, which emits a ping in water that can be picked up from a depth of just over four kilometres.
The batteries powering the underwater ping only last 30 days and are due to run out on April 7.
Australia, China and France have all released satellite images over the past week showing possible debris in the same general area as the latest sighting, but no confirmed wreckage has been located.
Meanwhile, aviation disaster compensation lawyers say Malaysia Airlines’ treatment of the families of passengers may increase the likelihood of legal action against the airline, which could reach many hundreds of millions of dollars.
Malaysia Airlines officials have defended the use of an SMS to break the news to passengers’ relatives that they had concluded the plane was lost at sea.
But angry families are demanding answers, with some marching on the Malaysian embassy in Beijing in protest on Tuesday.