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More Images, More Possible Debris, But No Sure Sign Of Flight 370

This post has been updated with word that the aerial search is over for today.

Images taken on Sunday by a French satellite show 122 "potential objects" in the area of the southern Indian Ocean that searchers are now combing for any sign of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Malaysia's acting transport minister said Wednesday.

Also, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority tweeted that pilots involved in the search of an area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth spotted three objects in the water on Wednesday — but that "none [were] distinctive of #MH370" or any of the satellite imagery in recent days.

A picture of satellite images taken Sunday that show locations of potential objects related to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
Azhar Rahim / EPA/Landov
A picture of satellite images taken Sunday that show locations of potential objects related to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The safety authority, which is coordinating the multinational search, tweeted that:

"3 objects [were] spotted in #MH370 search. Civil a/craft spotted 2 objects-likely rope. NZ P3K [spotted] a blue object. None relocated on further passes."

Translation: Two civilian aircraft involved in the search saw two things in the water that may have been rope. A New Zealand Air Force search plane spotted a blue object. But when the aircraft flew back over the areas, they didn't see those objects again.

Update at 11 a.m. ET. Aerial Search Over For The Day; Nothing Found:

The safety authority tweets that "final aircraft has left the #MH370 search area. Nothing further identified after initial sighting of three objects."


The Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared in the early hours of March 8. Bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 passengers and crew, it was over the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam when the last message from the cockpit to air traffic controllers — "all right, good night" — was heard.

Investigators believe the plane then turned sharply to the west, and flew back over the Malay Peninsula and south over the Indian Ocean. It may have been in the air for six or seven more hours. Theories about what happened vary widely, from some sort of catastrophe on board that disabled the crew to a hijacking.

The BBC, which is among several news outlets posting live updates about the search, sums up the news about the French satellite images this way:

"Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said 122 'potential objects' had been seen around 2,557km from Perth based on new French satellite images. He called it a new lead but said investigators did not know whether it was linked to the missing plane."

There have been a series of satellite images in recent days showing large objects floating in the area, and analyses of some signals sent from the jet have led investigators to believe it likely dropped into the southern Indian Ocean. But as of Wednesday evening (local time) in the area, nothing definitive had been found. Officials have cautioned throughout the search that it is not unusual to find shipping containers and other large objects floating in the waters there.

According to the Australian maritime authority, "a total of six countries are now assisting in the search and recovery operation — Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea. A total of seven military and five civil aircraft will be involved in today's search activities."

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

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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