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Wednesday May 22, 2019

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Australia race to identify debris in search for MH370

Australian authorities hunting for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have released satellite images of two objects seen floating in the southern Indian Ocean.

Search teams on board a number of vessels and planes are now scouring the area - more than 2,000km (1,200 miles) south-west of Perth - to try to identify the debris.

However, Australia's Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa), which is co-ordinating the search, cautioned that the items were located in a busy shipping area and may not be from the missing jet.

Australian officials said the images showed two whitish objects on or just under the surface of the ocean. They were spotted by satellite on 16 March, but it had taken time to analyse them, Australian Air Commodore John McGarry explained.

Australia's Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation, which carried out the analysis, said the larger of the objects could measure up to 24m (79ft) long.

australian satellite images mh370

"The indication to me is of objects that are a reasonable size and probably awash with water, moving up and down over the surface,'' John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of Amsa said.

Mr Young added that the debris was spotted along a busy shipping route and could be containers that had fallen off cargo vessels. However, the larger object appeared to be longer than a container, he added.

The second object spotted was estimated to be about 5m (16ft) long.

Although it could take several days to confirm if the two pieces of debris relate to the missing plane, the find is being regarded as the best lead in the hunt so far.

Credit: BBC

"It's credible enough to divert the research to this area on the basis it provides a promising lead to what might be wreckage," Royal Australian Air Force Air Commodore John McGarry said.

Commercial satellites have been redirected in the hope of getting higher resolution images as the current ones are too grainy to see any markings.

As each day passes the search for debris will become more difficult.

David Gleave, an aviation safety researcher at Loughborough University, said ocean currents would widen the possible search area by many miles.

If the objects were positively identified, the search would then intensify in a bid to find the rest of the aircraft, he added.

"Oceanographers will be brought in to estimate how far they expect it to have drifted and a guided search for the plane would begin."

An Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft has already been sent to the area to drop marker buoys, which will assess currents and help calculate how far debris could have drifted.

Once a crash site is located, work to recover bodies and the plane's 'black box' flight recorders is expected to begin.

The flight recorders, near located in the aircraft's tail section, emit an ultrasonic 'ping' every second for 30 days.

The type of recovery operation will depend on the depth of water at the crash site.

"If the plane is found, say 12,000ft (3,658m) down, then you need remotely controlled submarines with cameras on board to go to the bottom of the ocean, said David Gleave.

The area of sea where the debris was spotted was described as "several thousand meters deep" by Amsa's John Young.

When the boxes are found, investigators will dry them out - which takes just over a day - before attempting to access their information.

 

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