China: Plane spots objects in search for Flight 370

( - China's state news agency reported that a Chinese plane crew spotted some "suspicious objects in the southern Indian Ocean" on Monday while searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The crew of the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane saw the objects in an area that had been identified by satellite imagery as containing possible debris from the missing plane, the Associated Press reported.

The crew relayed the coordinates of the objects to the Australian command center and to a Chinese ship, the icebreaker Xuelong, which is on its way to the location, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Rain and poor weather conditions were expected to slow the search in the area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth.

China earlier released a satellite image captured last Tuesday depicting an object located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects a week ago.

A Xinhua correspondent aboard the IL-76 aircraft reports the crew spotted two large floating objects and several smaller, white objects scattered over several kilometers.

Before heading back to base, the crew asked Australian officials to send other planes to the area, Xinhua reported.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the search area was expanded from 22,800 to 26,400 square miles, including a new separate area based on data provided by France and made public Sunday.

The U.S. Pacific Command said it was sending a black box locator to the region in case a debris field is located. The Towed Pinger Locator has highly sensitive listening capability so that if the wreck site is located, it can hear the black box pinger to a depth of about 20,000 feet, Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. 7th Fleet operations officer, said in a statement.

Two Chinese IL-76 planes joined the search, increasing the number of aircraft from eight on Sunday to 10, the Australian agency said.

Malaysia's Ministry of Transport said it received satellite images from French authorities "showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor." The images are from the southern Indian Ocean, where the hunt continues for the plane, which vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard.

A Malaysian official involved in the search mission said the French data consisted of radar echoes captured Friday and converted into fuzzy images. One of the objects was estimated to be about 70 feet long and 40 feet wide.

The news of the French images came a day after China released a satellite image captured Tuesday depicting an object about the size of the one in the French data, located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects a week ago.

The search areas Sunday were determined by drift modeling based on the Chinese satellite imagery, AMSA said.

On Saturday, an aircraft aiding in the hunt for the missing jet found some small objects in the search area, including a wooden pallet, the safety authority said.

Mike Barton, chief of AMSA's rescue coordination center, told reporters in Canberra, Australia, that the wooden pallet was reportedly surrounded by what appeared to be strapping belts of different colors and lengths.

Contributing: Calum MacLeod from Beijing; the Associated Press


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