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    Mar 21, 2014

    Objects in remote seas: Answers in '2 to 3 days'


    AIRCRAFT and ships ploughed through bad weather yesterday in search of floating objects in remote seas off Australia that Malaysia called a "credible lead" in the trans-continental hunt for a jetliner missing for 13 days.

    The large objects - which Australian officials said were spotted by satellite four days ago in an area 2,500km south-west of Perth - are the most promising lead in days.

    Searchers have been scouring a vast area for the lost plane with 239 people on board.

    Officials said it could take several days to confirm if the objects were from MH370. Malaysia's government said the search would continue elsewhere despite this possible sighting.

    "Yesterday, I said we wanted to reduce the area of the search. We now have a credible lead," Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

    He said information about the objects received from Australia had been "corroborated to a certain extent" by other satellites, which made the lead more credible than previous ones.

    The larger of the two objects was up to 24m in length and seemed to be floating in water several thousand metres deep. The second was about 5m long.

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

    No confirmed wreckage has been found since MH370 vanished from air traffic control screens on March 8, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

    The satellite images, provided by United States company DigitalGlobe, are stamped with a record date of March 16 - by this time, the possible debris could have drifted far from the original site.

    Australian officials said marker buoys had been dropped in the area, which would provide data about currents that should assist in calculating the latest location.

    The captain of the first Australian air force AP-3C Orion plane to return from the search area described the weather conditions as "extremely bad", with rough seas and high winds, and said there was no sign of any objects.

    "We were unable to see for much of the flight today, but the other aircraft that are searching may have better conditions," Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Chris Birrer said.

    The authorities should know something definite about the possible discovery of debris in "two or three days", the Australian Associated Press quoted Defence Minister David Johnston as saying in Jakarta.