POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH: On Thursday afternoon, the announcement came of “new and credible” satellite imagery having identified a number of “objects” situated in a potential debris field approximately 2,500km southwest of Perth, Western Australia – possibly related to the search of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority initiated a full-scale air and sea search. Here is the information as it was made available:
11:10pm (Qld): The AMSA released a statement, announcing Thursday’s search efforts were complete and they would resume on Friday.
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“Search operations in the Southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft have been completed for the day in the Australian Search and Rescue Region,” the statement said.
“Four aircraft were tasked by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on Thursday to a 23,000 square kilometre area about 2500 kilometres southwest of Perth.
“This followed the receipt of satellite data imagery from the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation on Thursday morning. The imagery, on analysis by AGO, identified two objects possibly related to the missing aircraft. The images were captured on March 16.
“Due to the volume of imagery being searched, and the detailed process of analysis that followed, the information was brought to the attention of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on Thursday morning.
“The images have been assessed as being credible but it is possible they do not relate to the search.
“The four aircraft involved in Thursday’s search covered an are a of 23000 square kilometres.
“Two Royal Australia Air Force AP-3C Orions, a US Navy P8 Poseidon, and a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion were utilised, along with an RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft.
“A merchant ship arrived in the search area on Thursday evening. Another merchant ship is en route to the area. A total of six merchant ships have assisted in the search since a shipping broadcast was issued on Monday night.
“The Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Success is also en route to the search area. The search will continue on Friday.”
9.15pm (Qld): There are reports a Norwegian car carrier, Hoegh St Petersburgm, has reached the search area. It’s believed the car carrier was diverted to assist in the search whilst en-route to Melbourne from Madagascar.
9.00pm (Qld): United States ABC posted a tweet, reporting the US P-8 Poseidon had landed back at Perth after searching for possible debris, with no objects seen.
8:10pm (Qld): Federal political reporter for Fairfax Radio, Frank Keany posted a tweet, saying the the search will continue for another three hours: saying the search would continue until midnight, Queensland time, and would resume at first light.
8:00pm (Qld): The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) posted a tweet, saying the RAAF P3 crew were unable to locate any debris in the search area in the Southern Indian Ocean, with cloud and rain limiting visibility.
They said further aircraft would to continue search.
7.40pm (Qld): Speaking at a press conference at 7.30pm (Qld time), Malaysia’s Acting Transport Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein said there were 18 ships, 29 aircraft and six helicopters involved in the search effort in both the northern and southern corridors.
Mr Hussein stressed, although credible, the sightings were “still to be confirmed”. He said it was the first time there had been a “credible” lead since the plane disappeared on March 8.
The Acting Transport Minister went on the say if the objects identified were confirmed to be debris from MH370, the next stage wouldbe to find its black box recorder, warning the search could take years.
5.00pm (Qld): The Department of Defence have released satellite imagery of the “objects” identified in the Southern Indian Ocean, approximately 2,500km southwest of Perth.
IMAGE ONE and IMAGE TWO show the largest of the several “objects”, measuring 24m in length. IMAGE THREE shows the second largest “object”, measuring 5m.
“The Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Australia has received satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search of missing aircraft flight MH370,” John Young said.
“RCC Australian received an expert assessment of that satellite imagery this morning.
“The assessment of these images was provided by the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation (AGO) as a possible indication of debris south of the search area that has been the focus of the southern search operation since Monday March 17.
Mr Young said the objects identified by satellite imagery are relatively indistinct but experts indicate they are credible sightings.
“The indication to me is of the objects that are of reasonable size and are probably awash with water bobbing up and down over the surface,” Mr Young said.
“That largest image that I have seen is assessed as being 24 meters. There is another one that is smaller than that and a number of other images (objects) in the general area of the biggest one.”
“Further images are expected after commercial satellites were redirected to take high resolution images of the areas of interest. These will be provided in due course.”
Four aircraft have since been diverted to locate the objects approximately 2,500km southwest of Perth.
Mr Young said a Royal Australian Airforce Orion Aircraft arrived in the area of interest around 1.50pm this afternoon (AEDT).
A further three aircraft have been tasked by the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) to the area later today, including a Royal New Zealand Airforce Orion and a United States Navy Poseidon aircraft.
“The Poseidon aircraft should be on scene now,” Mr Young said.
“The second Australian Orion departed Royal Australian Airforce Base Pearce at 2pm (AEDT) this afternoon and should be on scene at 6pm this afternoon.
“The New Zealand Orion is due to depart at 4pm this afternoon (AEDT) and should be on scene at 8pm (AEDT).”
A Royal Australian Airforce C130 Hercules Aircraft has also been tasked to drop data marker buoys in the area which will assist the RCC by providing information on water movement to help with drift modelling.
“They will provide an ongoing reference point if the task of relocating the objects becomes protracted,” Mr Young told reporters.
A merchant ship which responded to a broadcast issued by the RCC on Monday is expected to arrive in the area about 6pm (AEDT), while the Royal Australian Navy Warship HMAS Success is en-route to the area, but is some days away.
“She (HMAS Success) is equipped to recover any objects located and proven to be from MH370,” Mr Young said.
The AMSA has been coordinating the southern corridor search for the missing jetliner with assistance from the Australian Defence Force, the Royal New Zealand Airforce, and the United States Navy.
Mr Young said weather conditions were moderate in the southern Indian Ocean where the search is taking place, however poor visibility has been reported and is expected to hamper retrieval efforts.
“AMSA continues to hold grave concerns for the passengers and crew on board and I must emphasise that these objects may be very difficult to locate and they may not be related to the search.”
1.30PM (Qld) – BREAKING NEWS: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told Parliament two objects possibly related to the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been identified in the southern Indian Ocean.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has received information based on satellite data that the objects relate to the search for the missing jetliner with 239 people on board, including four Queenslanders and a couple from Sydney.
The RAAF is being diverted to the area around 3,000km west of Perth and is expected to be joined by three other search planes.
The ABC also reports an United States P-8 search aircraft is nearing the search area where the two objects of interest have been found.
Mr Abbott said the information was “new and credible”.
More than 25 countries have been involved in the search after the Boeing 777 vanished from civilian radar on March 8 en-route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
There will be a press conference at 2.30pm this afternoon, Queensland time.
Here is a little of what Mr Abbott told Parliament at the beginning of Question Time.
“Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified,” Mr Abbott said.
“I can inform the House that a Royal Australian Air Force Orion has been diverted to attempt to locate the objects.
“Three more aircraft will follow this Orion, they are tasked for more intensive follow up search.
“I have spoken to my Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister and informed him of these developments.
“I should tell the house, and we must keep this in mind, 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.”