Thai satellite images of more than 300 objects in the southern Indian Ocean produced another lead in the search for Malaysian Air flight MH370 as bad weather forced aircraft to suspend their operations Mar. 27.
The photos showed objects ranging in size from 2 meters to 15 meters, about 2,700 kilometers (1,680 miles) southwest of Perth, said Anond Snidvongs, executive director of the Geo Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency. The images, taken on March 24, were sent to Malaysian officials, Anond said.
The latest discovery follows those from Airbus Group taken on March 23 that showed more than 100 objects about 2,560 kilometers from Perth. The satellite sightings have provided a new focus in the multi-nation search to find the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. aircraft that vanished on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board.
Eleven aircraft were deployed today and were all returning to Perth according to the agency’s Twitter feed. AMSA initially said ships were also leaving the search zone about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth, then later said they would try to continue the hunt.
“Reports from the area indicate almost zero visibility,” Sam Cardwell, a spokesman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said. “The cloud is down below 500 feet, so the aircraft can’t see anything.”
The images from Airbus showed objects as long as 23 meters scattered over a 400-square kilometer area of the ocean, Malaysian officials said yesterday.
Today’s bad weather is expected to continue for the next 24 hours, AMSA said. Four Chinese vessels — the Kunlunshan, Haikou, Qiandaohu and icebreaker Xue Long — and Australia’s HMAS Success will remain in the search area, AMSA said.
The search was also suspended on March 25 amid gale-force winds and four-meter swells.
“We cannot tell whether the potential objects are from MH370,” Malaysia’s Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. “Nevertheless, this is another new lead that will help direct the search operation.”
Malaysian Air has said there’s no hope of survivors on the Boeing 777-200ER plane.
Since the focus of the search shifted to the southern Indian Ocean over a week ago, aircraft have made multiple sightings of debris, including a wooden pallet with straps and unidentified green and orange objects, none of which have been recovered. The search, covering 78,000 square kilometers of ocean, involved 11 planes and five ships, AMSA said.
Malaysian authorities were also looking into what may be the final signal sent from the jet, which may help the investigators reduce the size of the search area.
Investigators used satellite data from Inmarsat to try to find flight MH370. With the plane’s communications systems having been shut off and no wreckage found, the engineers’ conclusions have been the closest thing to a resolution of the mystery that shrouds what is now the longest search in modern airline history.
The FBI should “within a day or two” finish examining the contents of computer drives from the home flight simulator built by the plane’s captain, Director James B. Comey told a congressional committee yesterday. Malaysia asked for the FBI’s help in retrieving files that were deleted from the simulator last month.