122 objects that point to debris
NEW satellite images have revealed more than 100 objects in the southern Indian Ocean that could be debris from a Malaysian jetliner missing for 18 days with 239 people on board, said Malaysia's acting transport minister yesterday.
The latest sighting came as searchers stepped up efforts to find some trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, thought to have crashed on March 8 after flying thousands of miles off course.
"It must be emphasised that we cannot tell whether the potential objects are from MH370," Mr Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference.
"Nevertheless, this is another new lead that will help direct the search operation," he told a daily press briefing, calling it "the most credible lead that we have".
The images were captured by France-based Airbus Defence & Space on Monday and showed 122 potential objects in a 400 sq km area of ocean, Mr Hishammuddin said. The objects varied in size from 1m to 23m in length, he said.
A dozen aircraft from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea were once more scouring the seas some 2,500km south-west of Perth in the hunt for wreckage yesterday, after bad weather the previous day forced the suspension of the search.
Australia, China and France have all released satellite images over the past week showing possible debris in the same general area as the latest sighting, but no confirmed wreckage has been located.
"The crash zone is as close to nowhere as it's possible to be, but it's closer to Australia than anywhere else," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, before leading the country's Parliament in a moment of silence.
Seeking closure in the searing drama, anguished families of those aboard are desperately awaiting hard evidence, which the aviation industry hopes can also provide clues to what caused one of air travel's greatest mysteries.
Mr Hishammuddin hit back at criticism of Malaysia's handling of the crisis, saying: "I think history will judge us well."
The authorities hope to eventually retrieve the "black box" and its precious flight data, believing it could hold clues to what happened.
The clock is ticking, with the battery that powers its locator signal expected to run out in two weeks.
US law firm Ribbeck Law Chartered said it has initiated what it called the first civil legal proceedings over the crash of Flight MH370.
"We are going to be filing the lawsuits for millions of dollars per each passenger based on prior cases that we have done involving crashes like this one," the firm's head of aviation litigation, Monica Kelly, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
This could be the start of what legal experts have warned could be a cascade of lawsuits by passengers' relatives.
Meanwhile, the Royal Malaysian Air Force did not intercept Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 after it was detected by military radar as it assumed air traffic control had asked it to turn back, The Star reported.
"The plane was detected by our military radar but we assumed the turn-back done by MH370 was due to instructions from the air traffic control tower," Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri told parliament yesterday.
Mr Abdul Rahim also stressed the plane was identified as a non-hostile aircraft.