Missing Malaysia Flight MH370: Indian Ocean search remains focused on finding passengers alive authorities say

Australian-led mission resumed search in the southern Indian Ocean

The international hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean has concluded for today, as the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the focus of the search was still on finding passengers alive.

The Australian-led mission said five aircraft returned to an area some 2,500 km (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth.

Three Chinese naval ships were also travelling to the area, along with the icebreaker Snow Dragon, China's state television reported.

John Young, AMSA Emergency Response Division general manager, told Sky News earlier today: “We want to find these objects because they are the best lead to where we might find people to be rescued. We are still focused on that task.”

Australia's acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said nothing of significance had been found so far and warned the debris may have slipped to the bottom of the ocean. 

"So something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating - it may have slipped to the bottom," he said. "It's also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometres."

In a news conference today, Malaysia's acting Transport Minister said Japan will also be assisting in the search and confirmed it will request further specialist assistance from the US.

Hishammuddin Hussein stressed that the most sophisticated planes and vessels are involved in the mission, but said they are still waiting on information on the debris.

Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken with his Malaysian counterpart and offered the UK's continued support in the search, he told the conference. Britain is also sending the HMS Echo to help the operation.

The search began on Thursday in the midst of difficult weather conditions after analysis of satellite images identified two large objects floating in the ocean there that may have come from the Boeing 777, which went disappeared 13 days ago with 239 people aboard.

Satellite images reveal the large lumps of floating debris Satellite images reveal the large lumps of floating debris The indistinct objects – one about 24m (71ft) long, the other 5m – were photographed in the southern Indian Ocean, about 2,500km (1,553 miles) south-west of Perth on 16 March.

Mr Young said weather conditions had improved somewhat since Thursday but there was still some low cloud cover over the search area 2,300 km (1,400 miles) from Western Australia.

Given that radar did not pick up anything on Thursday, searchers were using their eyes instead of equipment to try and spot the objects, forcing the planes to fly very low over the water.  Low flying planes use more fuel, meaning they can spend less time in the area.

The aircraft are planning to head back to the search zone on Saturday, but the search area will change slightly depending on water movements overnight, Mr Young added.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guineau, where he is on a visit that they were doing everything to resolve "what is as yet an extraordinary riddle".

"We owe it to the families, the friends and the loved ones of the nearly 240 people on board flight MH370, he said.

"Because of the understandable state of anxiety they’re in, we also owe it to them to give them information as soon as we get it to hand.

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Families of those on board met with Malaysian officials at the Lido Hotel in Beijing on Friday, where many are now anxiously awaiting any further developments.

Those who spoke said they had a two-hour briefing about the search but that they received no new information.

Wang Zhen, son of artist Wang Linshi, said the meeting went smoothly but that there were questions on why Malaysian authorities had provided so much seemingly contradictory information.

"We feel they're hiding something from us," said Wang, who has been attending news briefings and waiting for updates.

Additional reporting by agencies

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