By Dan Good | ABC News
(ABC)—New satellite images show a debris field of 122 objects floating in the Indian Ocean – potentially connected to doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, officials said at a press conference today.
Malaysia’s Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the images were taken on Sunday, March 23, about 1,600 miles off the coast of Perth, Australia. Authorities received the images Tuesday.
The objects vary in size, with the largest about 75 feet in length, Hishammuddin said. Some objects appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid debris.
“This is another new lead that will help direct the search operation,” he said.
That desperate, multinational search operation resumed today across a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean after fierce winds and high waves that had forced a daylong halt eased considerably.
Six countries are participating in the search – Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, China and South Korea. A total of 12 planes and two ships are involved, with the search area divided into east and west sectors.
Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority said search crews spotted three objects today, including a blue object and two objects that are likely rope. The items were not relocated on further passes, and the items aren’t distinctive of the missing plane, AMSA said.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott expressed hope that search crews will recover an object connected to the doomed plane, which was carrying 239 people when it went missing March 8.
“A considerable amount of debris has been sighted in the area where the flight was last recorded,” he told Australian parliament today. “Bad weather and inaccessibility as so far prevented any of it being recovered. But we are confident that some will be.”
Malaysia announced earlier this week that a mathematical analysis of the final known satellite signals from the plane had proved beyond doubt it gone down in the sea, taking the lives of all those on board.
Despite the new data, the search zone remains huge — an area estimated at 622,000 square miles, about the size of Alaska.
In Beijing, some families held out a glimmer of hope their loved ones might somehow have survived. About two-thirds of the missing are Chinese, and their relatives have lashed out at Malaysia for essentially declaring their family members dead without any physical evidence of the plane’s remains. Many also believe that the Malaysian officials have not been transparent or swift in communicating information with them about the status of the search.
Wang Chunjiang, whose brother was on the plane, said he felt “very conflicted.”
“We want to know the truth, but we are afraid the debris of the plane should be found,” he said while waiting at a hotel near the Beijing airport for a meeting with Malaysian officials. “If they find debris, then our last hope would be dashed. We will not have even the slightest hope.”
In China’s capital a day earlier, nearly 100 relatives and their supporters marched to the Malaysian Embassy, where they threw plastic water bottles, tried to rush the gate and shouted, “Tell the truth! Return our relatives!”
In a statement of support for the families, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered a special envoy to Kuala Lumpur to deal with the case, and Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng told Malaysia’s ambassador that China wanted to know exactly what led to the announcement that the plane had been lost, a statement on the ministry’s website said.
The plane’s bizarre disappearance March 8 shortly after it took off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing has proven to be one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.
Investigators are considering various possibilities, including mechanical or electrical failure, hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.
The search for the wreckage and the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders could take years because the ocean can extend to up to 23,000 feet deep in some parts. It took two years to find the black box from an Air France jet that went down in the Atlantic Ocean on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, and searchers knew within days where the crash site was.
There is a race against the clock to find Flight 370’s black boxes, whose battery-powered “pinger” could stop sending signals within two weeks. The batteries are designed to last at least a month.
Today’s focus involves a 30,000 square mile swathe of ocean more than 1,200 miles off the coast of Australia.
Various pieces of floating objects have been spotted by planes and satellite, but none have been retrieved or identified.
ABC News’ Rebecca Lee and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 by ABC News. All rights reserved.
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