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Australia: Objects Spotted By Satellite Imagery May Be Linked To Jet

Satellite imagery provided to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority of objects that may possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Satellite imagery provided to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority of objects that may possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Australian satellite images found objects that are possibly connected to the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing with 239 people on board March 8. "New and credible information has come to light in relation to the search," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his Parliament on Thursday.

"The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has received information based on satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search," Abbott said. "Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified."

Four aircraft have been diverted to the southern Indian Ocean to locate the objects, which include a nearly 80-foot piece of debris.

Abbott cautioned "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."

You can watch the prime minister's update on this video from The Sydney Morning Herald:

In a news conference after Abbott's remarks, Air Commodore John McGarry said, "Quite simply, [the information is] credible enough to divert the research to this area on the basis that it provides a promising lead to what might be wreckage from the debris field."

NPR's Frank Langfitt tells our Newscast unit that officials cautioned that debris, including containers that have fallen off ships, is not uncommon in this part of the ocean.

In Thursday's news conference, John Young, emergency response manager for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, said the "most likely scenario" was that aircraft would locate an object — "if it is findable" — and then report its location. From there, the Maritime Safety Authority would deploy a ship to the area.

"That would be our first chance to get a close-up look at whatever the objects might be and progressively advance the identification of whether they're associated with the [missing plane] search or not," Young said.

The New York Times reminded us Wednesday that finding plane debris "would be only a modest step in locating the rest of the Boeing 777. And only then could they dig into the question of why it crashed."

Update at 5:40 a.m. ET: 'We Now Have A Credible Lead'

The Malaysian transportation minister is holding a news conference in Kuala Lumpur. He outlined the international resources trying to locate Flight 370 and confirmed that an Australian military aircraft had arrived at the scene. Hishammuddin bin Hussein said the U.S. Navy's P-8 was expected to arrive early this afternoon.

"We now have a credible lead," Hishammuddin said, referring to the Australian satellite images. "That gives us hope. And as long as there's hope, we shall continue."

Update at 5:23 a.m. ET. Australian Aircraft Arrives At Site:

In a statement, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said a Royal Australian Air Force Orion aircraft had arrived in the area to search for Flight 370. Three other aircraft are expected to arrive in the area later Thursday, including a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.

Update at 12:45 a.m. ET. Four Aircraft Diverted To The Scene:

Four aircraft have been diverted to the site where Australian satellite imagery picked up two objects. John Young, general manager of emergency response for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, spoke with reporters Thursday.

"It's probably the best lead we have right now," he said. But he warns that the objects may still be difficult to locate.

The size of the objects (he said the largest was about 79 feet) and the fact that both were found in the same area made them worth sending aircraft to check, though Young is wary of speculating.

The site is about 1,429 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.
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