Australia raised hopes Sunday that the mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could be solved after unidentified debris was spotted and China and Japan piled extra resources into the growing international search effort.
Two weeks after the Boeing 777 vanished, Prime Minister Tony Abbott voiced new confidence that fresh visual sightings of floating objects would help after “significant developments” in the maritime hunt.
“It’s still too early to be definite, but obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope — no more than hope, no more than hope — that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft,” he said.
Abbott spoke after several unidentified objects were seen in the remote and inhospitable search zone about 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) off Perth.
He detailed “a number of small objects fairly close together within the Australian search zone, including, as I understand it, a wooden pallet.”
His comments came hours after the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) announced that “further attempts will be made to establish whether the objects sighted are related to MH370,” on Sunday.
Abbott did not specifically mention a Chinese satellite image dated March 18 and released on Saturday, which showed a 22.5-metre (74-foot) long piece of debris.
The location was just 120 kilometres (75 miles) from where March 16 satellite images – released by Australia on Thursday – had shown two large items at sea.
“The object was not sighted on Saturday. AMSA will take this information into account in tomorrow’s (Sunday’s) search plans,” a statement said, referring to the new Chinese imagery.
Beijing and Tokyo were each sending two aircraft to join the six already involved in the huge operation backed by the United States and New Zealand.
“Obviously the more aircraft we have, the more ships we have, the more confident we are of recovering whatever material is down there,” Australia’s prime minister said.
“And obviously before we can be too specific about what it might be, we do actually need to recover some of this material.”
Abbott, speaking as he ended a visit to neighbouring Papua New Guinea, praised the “really big international” search effort.
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“It is a very important humanitarian exercise. We owe it to the almost 240 people on board the plane, we owe it to their grieving families, we owe it to the governments of the countries concerned, to do everything we can to discover as much as we can about the fate of MH370.”