By Don Lee, Los Angeles Times
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight intensified Monday as search crews reported more sightings of possible debris in the south Indian Ocean, including two objects that could be retrieved soon by an Australian vessel.
Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, also announced an unscheduled news conference for 10 p.m. local time (7 a.m. PDT). He is believed to be planning to announce a major development, possibly confirmation of Flight 370 debris. Razak has given only one press conference on the matter in the last two weeks when Malaysia said it believed the plane had been deliberately diverted off course.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said earlier Monday evening that a search aircraft had located two objects and that an Australian vessel, HMAS Success, was in the vicinity.
“It is possible that the objects could be received within the next few hours, or by tomorrow morning at the latest,” he said at a news conference. Hishammuddin said Australia’s prime minister had informed the prime minister of Malaysia about the development just minutes prior to the daily briefing to reporters.
If retrieved, the two objects — one described as circular and possibly gray or green, and the other rectangular and orange — would be the first to be found in the remote section of the southern Indian Ocean about 1,500 miles off the coast of southwest Australia since searchers began focusing there Thursday. And they could provide the first physical evidence of the fate of the plane that vanished March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board.
In recent days, there has been a growing number of satellite and aircraft sightings of objects in remote ocean area that authorities described as having potential to be wreckage from the missing jetliner.
On Monday, with China and Japan joining an Australian-led team of American and New Zealand aircraft, 10 military and commercial planes combed an area of about 20,000 square nautical miles in the southern Indian Ocean looking for traces of Flight 370.
Earlier in the day, one of the two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft involved in the search reported seeing “two big floating objects with many white smaller ones scattered within a radius of several kilometers,” according to the official New China News Agency.
After the sighting was reported, the U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon plane sought to relocate the objects but was unable to do so, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. A Chinese vessel was steaming toward the area to investigate and was expected to arrive in the area by Tuesday morning, the news agency said.
Photo: Shyb via Flickr