Three objects retrieved by a Chinese ship in the search for missing flight MH370 are pieces of floating rubbish, it has emerged. The items were recovered from the Southern Indian Ocean as the operation to locate the Malaysia Airlines jet, which vanished on March 8, entered its fourth week.
Sources said two ships – on Australian and one Chinese – were able to pick up ‘a number of objects’ during today’s search,
But hopes were dashed when Chinese state media reported the items were nothing more than floating bits of waste.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement: ‘So far no objects confirmed to be related to MH370 have been recovered.’
It comes as Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he refuses to give up hope of finding some of the 239 passengers and crew alive.
He said his country is committed to seeing the investigation through to its final conclusion.
‘I cannot give them (relatives) false hope,’ he said. ‘The best we can do is pray and be sensitive to them, that as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes.’
‘What they (relatives) want from us is a commitment to continue the search, and that I have given, not only on behalf of the Malaysian government but the so many nations involved.
‘For me as the minister responsible, this is the hardest part of my life, at the moment.
‘Miracles do happen, remote or otherwise, and that is the hope that the families want me to convey not only to the Malaysian government, MAS, but also to the world at large.’
Earlier today a Chinese military plane hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 spotted suspicious red, white and orange objects floating in the South Indian Ocean.
Australian officials coordinating the operation moved the search area 680 miles north east yesterday – it was shifted after new radar data analysis suggested the jet flew faster than originally thought and would have used up more fuel, which might have reduced the distance it travelled.
‘Miracles do happen, remote or otherwise, and that is the hope that the families want me to convey not only to the Malaysian government, MAS, but also to the world at large’
– Malaysian minister Hishammuddin Hussein
The Chinese navy vessel Jinggangshan, which carries two helicopters, reached the new search area early today where it was expected to focus on searching for plane surfaces, oil slicks and life jackets.
A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 flying over the new site detected the floating items – which bear the colours of the missing plane – today around 1,150 miles west of Perth, the official Xinhua news agency said.
That sighting follows reports of ‘multiple objects of various colours’ by international flight crews yesterday, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
Some looked like they were from fishing boats and nothing could be confirmed until they were recovered by ships, it added.
‘We’re hopeful to relocate some of the objects we were seeing yesterday,’ Royal New Zealand Air Force Squadron Leader Flight Lieutenant Leon Fox said before flying out to the search zone on an Orion P-3.
‘Hopefully some of the ships in the area will be able to start picking it up and give us an indication of what we were seeing.’
An Australian pilot returning from the search is said to have told reporters that objects spotted yesterday by Chinese crews have been marked with buoys to enable ships to locate them easily.
He told reporters near Kuala Lumpur, after meeting several families of passengers on the plane, that there was no new information on the objects, which could just be regular debris, or could be from the missing plane.
‘I’ve got to wait to get the reports on whether they have retrieved those objects… Those will give us some indication,’ said Hishammuddin, who was accompanied by his wife and children as he visited the relatives at a hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said that objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from Flight 370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships.
‘It is not known how much flotsam, such as from fishing activities, is ordinarily there. At least one distinctive fishing object has been identified,’ it said.
The three objects spotted by the Chinese plane Saturday were white, red and orange in color, the Xinhua news report said.