Flight MH370: Ocean debris complicates plane search

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Twenty-six countries are now involved in the search for the missing aircraft. Photo / AP
Twenty-six countries are now involved in the search for the missing aircraft. Photo / AP

The search for Flight MH370 has been complicated by floating objects in the sea that may have been mistaken for pieces of wreckage from the aircraft that has been missing for almost three weeks.

Experts, as well as those involved in the search missions, which has included the New Zealand Air Force, have acknowledged that although the images look promising, the debris could be other objects - from old ship wreckage, shipping containers or other man-made objects carried out by natural disasters, such as tsunamis.

Satellite images have picked up blurry images of large-sized debris floating in the Indian Ocean. So far search planes have spotted floating objects southwest of Perth, but none has been retrieved.

American marine debris specialist Nicholas Mallos said there were a number of large items that could be found in the world's oceans.

Mr Mallos told the New York Times that wreckage from ghost ships and marine debris such as crates, containers and docks, were all floating around.

"Truly anything you can think of has likely been found," he said.

Search missions resumed yesterday, following a cancellation of all search efforts on Tuesday because of poor weather conditions.

With the 24-hour delay in the search, those objects and possible debris from the plane could drift to an even wider area.

There are now 26 countries involved in the search.

"We've got to get lucky," said John Goglia, a former member of the United States National Transportation Safety Board.

"It's a race to get to the area in time to catch the black box pinger while it's still working."

Watch: Malaysian Flight MH370 crashed

The pinger could stop sending signals within two weeks.

A day earlier, angry relatives shouted "liars!" in the streets of Beijing about Malaysia's declaration that the plane went down with all aboard.

Although officials sharply narrowed the search zone based on the last satellite signals received from the Boeing 777, it was still estimated at 1.6 million sq km.

"We're not searching for a needle in a haystack; we're still trying to define where the haystack is," said Australia's deputy defence chief, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, at the RAAF Pearce military base in Perth.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is co-ordinating the search on Malaysia's behalf, said yesterday's search would focus on 80,000sq km of ocean about 2500km southwest of Perth.

The search for the wreckage and the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders could take years because the ocean floor was up to 7000m deep in some parts.

- additional reporting agencies

- NZ Herald

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