China redeploys search effort for MH370 as sighting of new objects raises hope
(Source: Xinhua) 2014-03-29
A soldier looks into distance with telescopes aboard Chinese navy vessel Jinggangshan, on March 29, 2014. The Chinese navy vessel Jinggangshan, which reached the new targeted waters early Saturday and carries two helicopters, is expected to focus on searching for plane surfaces, oil slicks and life jackets in a sea area of some 6,900 square km. (Xinhua/Bai Ruixue)
BEIJING, March 29 (Xinhua) -- As fresh objects spotted by planes off Australia's west coast reignited hope of breakthrough in searching the missing Malaysian jetliner, China has shifted its search effort north accordingly, with two vessels already in the new search zone by Saturday morning.
The Chinese navy vessel Jinggangshan, which reached the new targeted waters early Saturday and carries two helicopters, was expected to focus on searching for plane surfaces, oil slicks and life jackets in a sea area of some 6,900 square km.
A Xinhua correspondent aboard the warship said the sea was calm but there were low clouds.
Late Friday night, Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 has already reached the area to relocate objects spotted earlier in the day by airborne searchers for the missing flight.
Due to poor visibility at night, no major sightings were reported as of 1:00 a.m. local time Saturday (1700 GMT of Friday) but a few light-colored, palm-size floating objects, according to another Xinhua correspondent aboard the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration ship.
Saturday's weather was expected initially to be suitable for the searching, but conditions were likely to deteriorate later in the day, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said in its latest update on Saturday.
AMSA confirmed that five aircraft spotted multiple objects of various colors during Friday's search. However, the objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships, said a statement.
The new search area, around 319,000 square km, is about four times bigger than the previous one in the southern Indian Ocean and 1,100 km to its northeast.
The shift of search area to new waters north to the previous one was decided on the analysis of fresh data indicating the plane was flying faster than first thought before it disappeared on March 8.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau believed that this update of search waters was "credible," according to the latest update.
It also said Saturday's multinational search will involve eight aircraft, with six ships expected to reach the revised search area "late in the day or after dark."
While the hunt for the missing plane was underway, more suspicious objects with possible linkage to MH370 were spotted.
Also on Saturday, New Zealand Air Vice Marshal Kevin Short told media that a cluster of 11 white rectangular objects was sitting below water surface some 1,600 km west of Perth, Australia.
The objects, one-meter rectangular piece of material, were within five meters away from one another, the general said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said earlier at a regular press briefing that vessels Nanhaijiu 115 and Donghaijiu 101, and an Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft were heading to the new search zone.
Haixun 31 and Nanhaijiu 101 of the Ministry of Transport and the Navy's Yongxingdao were still combing the eastern part of the southern Indian Ocean for the missing plane, Hong added.
China has maintained close communication and coordination with Malaysia since MH370 disappeared and provided information to assist its search work, Hong said, noting that China has repeatedly ask Malaysia to provide information, search for the plane, investigate the accident and inform the families of the passengers without delay.
On the investigation process, Interpol rejected Friday Malaysia's claim that using Interpol's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database may slow immigration checks.
The agency said Malaysia's Immigration Department did not conduct a single check of passengers' passports against its database in 2014 prior to the disappearance of the plane.