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Missing jet: Search resumes in cloudy weather


Canberra, March 23:

The search operation for the missing Malaysian airliner resumed Sunday morning with eight aircraft being tasked to search the area in the southern Indian Ocean in cloudy weather.

“The search has resumed. The weather is cloudy and foggy,” an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokesman told IANS on phone in Canberra Sunday.

Asked if Cyclone Gillian which was approaching the Christmas Island in Australia Saturday would affect the search operation, the spokesman said: “That’s a long way off.”

He said eight aircraft have been tasked by AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre to undertake search activities.

Among the eight aircraft four are civil aircraft — two Bombardier Global Express, a Gulfstream 5 and an Airbus 319.

“Today’s (Sunday’s) search has been split into two areas within the same proximity covering 59,000 sq km area, about 2,500 km southwest of Perth. The area have been determined by drift modelling,” the AMSA said.

“One civil aircraft departed from Perth for the search after 9 a.m. Three other civil aircraft will depart between 11 a.m. and midday,” it said.

“A US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft will depart for the search area about 11 a.m.,” it added.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

The passenger manifesto named the five Indians on board as Vinod Koelkar, Chetana Koelkar, Swanand Koelkar, Chandrika Sharma and Kranti Shirsath.

The search for the missing airliner ended Saturday with the sighting of some objects with the naked eye even as China said that one of its satellites has spotted an object in the area.

“During Saturday’s search activities, a civil aircraft tasked by the AMSA reported sighting a number of small objects with the naked eye including a wooden pallet, within a radius of five km,” the AMSA said Saturday.

“A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion aircraft with specialist electro-optic observation equipment was diverted to the location, arriving after the first aircraft left but only reported sighting clumps of seaweed,” it said.

It said the RNZAF Orion dropped a datum marker buoy to track the movement of the material and a merchant ship in the area has been tasked to relocate and seek to identify the material.

Earlier Saturday, acting Prime Minister of Australia Warren Truss said the suspicious objects spotted by the Australian satellite in the southern Indian Ocean remained “the best lead” in the massive search for the airliner.

The objects might have either drifted or sunk, but “if there’s something to be found, I’m confident this search will find it”, Truss told a press conference.

Meanwhile, China said Saturday a satellite image showed a 22-metre-long, 13-metre-wide object in the southern Indian Ocean.