More Images Show Possible Jet Debris In Indian Ocean


UPDATED: Sunday March 23, 2014 9:19 AM

CBS NEWS - France on Sunday provided Malaysia with satellite images of objects that could be from a passenger jet that went missing more than two weeks ago, the latest word of such images that officials are hoping will help solve one of the world's great aviation mysteries.
 
A statement from Malaysia's Ministry of Transport said Malaysia received the images from "French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor." That is thought to be close to areas of the Indian Ocean where Australia and China provided satellite images of objects that could be debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing March 8 with 239 people on board.

Air and sea searches since Thursday in a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean to determine whether the objects were from the missing jet have been unsuccessful.

More planes were joining the search Sunday after China released a satellite image showing a large object floating in the search zone. The image in the Chinese satellite was taken around noon Tuesday. The image location was about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite viewed two objects two days earlier. The larger object was about as long as the one the Chinese satellite detected.

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reported from Perth, Australia that the Chinese government also said a smaller object roughly 40 feet in length was also seen.

The desolate area in the Indian Ocean is about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, Australia, where three days of searching for similar images from another satellite that emerged earlier in the week have produced no results.

"CBS This Morning" contributor Michio Kaku, a physics professor at the City University of New York, said this week that the area is "quite turbulent, and even a gentle current of 5 miles an hour could carry debris of hundreds of miles across."

The Malaysian statement said the new images had been sent to Australia, which is coordinating the search about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, but officials there could not immediately confirm they had received them. It gave no other information on the images.

Andrea Hayward-Maher, a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, confirmed that Australia had received the images, but had no further details.

The images could be another clue in the growing mystery over Flight 370, with the search moving from seas off Vietnam when the plane first went missing to areas now not far from the Antarctica, where planes and a ship were scrambling Sunday looking for a pallet and other debris to determine whether the objects were from the missing jet.

The pallet was spotted by a search plane Saturday, but has not been closely examined. Wooden pallets are commonly used in shipping, but can also be used in cargo containers carried on planes.

Mike Barton, chief of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's rescue coordination center, told reporters in Canberra, Australia, that the wooden pallet was spotted by a search aircraft on Saturday, and that it was surrounded by several other objects, including what appeared to be strapping belts of different colors.

A New Zealand P3 Orion military plane was then sent to find it but failed, he said.

"So, we've gone back to that area again today to try and re-find it," Barton said. An Australian navy ship was also involved in the search.

AMSA said the aircraft that spotted the pallet was unable to take photos of it.

"We went to some of the expert airlines and the use of wooden pallets is quite common in the industry," Barton said. "They're usually packed into another container, which is loaded in the belly of the aircraft. ... It's a possible lead, but we will need to be very certain that this is a pallet because pallets are used in the shipping industry as well."

Sam Cardwell, a spokesman for AMSA, said the maritime agency had requested a cargo manifest from Malaysia Airlines, but he was unsure whether it had been received as of Sunday night.

Malaysia Airlines asked The Associated Press to submit questions via email for comment on whether Flight 370 had wooden pallets aboard when it disappeared. There was no immediate response.

When Brazilian searchers in 2009 were looking for debris from Air France Flight 447 after it mysteriously plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, the first thing they found was a wooden pallet. The military first reported that the pallet came from the Air France flight, but then said six hours later that the plane had not been carrying any wooden pallets.

Eight search planes departed from a military base near the southwestern Australian city of Perth on Sunday, but like other searches since Thursday, they have not produced any results.

John Young, manager of AMSA's emergency response division, said Sunday's search used mostly human eyes.

"Today is really a visual search again, and visual searches take some time. They can be difficult," he said.

The southern Indian Ocean is thought to be a potential area to find the jet because Malaysian authorities have said pings sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

Malaysia asked the U.S. for undersea surveillance equipment to help in the search, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel promised to assess the availability of the technology and its usefulness in the search, Kirby said. The Pentagon says it has spent $2.5 million to operate ships and aircraft in the search and has budgeted another $1.5 million for the efforts.