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Australia checking 2 objects in search for plane

  • Associated Press
  • Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at 11:14 p.m.

— Australia’s prime minister said Thursday two objects possibly related to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight have been spotted on satellite imagery in the Indian Ocean and an air force aircraft was diverted to the area to try to locate them.

The Orion aircraft was expected to arrive in the area Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament in Canberra. Three additional aircraft are expected to follow for a more intensive search, he said.

But Abbott cautioned that the task of locating the objects will be extremely difficult and “it may turn out that they are not related to the search for flight MH370.”

He did not say where the objects were. Military planes from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand were covering a search region over the southern Indian Ocean that was narrowed down on Wednesday from 232,000 square miles to 117,000 square miles.

The hunt for the Boeing 777 has been punctuated by several false leads since it disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand.

Oil slicks that were spotted did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be a piece of sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible plane debris, but nothing was found. But this is the first time that possible objects have been spotted since the search area was massively expanded into two corridors, one stretching from northern Thailand into Central Asia and the other from the Strait of Malacca down to southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

Abbott said he spoke to the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, about the latest developments. Australia’s high commissioner to Malaysia, Rod Smith, joined a meeting of senior Malaysia search officials at a Kuala Lumpur hotel after Abbott’s announcement. Smith did not respond to reporters’ questions.

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