Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: 'We are not giving up', say officials after third day of 'debris' search

No news from air and sea search for possible debris in satellite images

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The Independent Online

Officials are insisting they are far from giving up the hunt for possible debris from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after a third day of searching brought no news.

Aeroplanes from China, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. converged to scan a remote stretch of the Southern Indian Ocean, where two large objects were spotted in satellite pictures released last week.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's transport minister, told a press conference on Saturday he believed there was "still hope" for relatives of the passengers.

He said: "I can give an assurance to all family members out there that as long as there is hope, we will continue with the search."

Some ships joining the effort are heading towards a tropical cyclone near Christmas Island, he said, but the intensifying storm would not stop the operation.

Latest: 'China spots large object in southern corridor'

Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia, said weather conditions that had hampered earlier efforts with bad visibility were improving.

During an official visit to Papua New Guinea, he said: “There are aircraft and vessels from other nations that are joining this particular search because tenuous though it inevitably is, this is nevertheless the first credible evidence of anything that has happened to Flight MH370.”

Two Japanese planes will arrive on Sunday and more ships were arriving to join the operation.

Warren Truss, Australia's acting prime minister while Mr Abbott is abroad, admitted a complete search could take a long time.

“It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we're absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile - and that day is not in sight,” he said.

“If there's something there to be found, I'm confident that this search effort will locate it.”

Satellite pictures showed two large objects floating in the ocean about 1,500 miles south-west of Perth, raising hopes of finding debris from Flight MH370, which vanished with 239 passengers and crew en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The objects could be unrelated to the Boeing 777 - one possibility is that they fell off one of the cargo vessels that travel in the area.

Aircraft involved in the search include two ultra-long-range commercial jets and four P3 Orions, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

Because the search area is a four-hour flight from land, the Orions can search for only about two hours before they must fly back. The commercial jets can stay for five hours before heading back to base.

Australian maritime officials also were checking for updated satellite imagery.

The images showing the objects were taken on 16 March but the search in the area did not start until Thursday because they needed to be analysed.

Satellite images reveal the large lumps of floating debris

Chinese planes that arrived in Perth today were expected to begin searching on Sunday. A small flotilla of ships from China will also join the hunt, along with a refuelling vessel that will allow ships to stay in the search area for a long time, Mr Truss said.

Meanwhile in Beijing, the anger of relatives of the 154 Chinese passengers was growing, bubbling over at a brief meeting with Malaysia Airlines and government officials on Saturday.

“You can't leave here! We want to know what the reality is!” they shouted in frustration over what they saw as officials' refusal to answer questions.

The relatives gave reporters a statement saying they believe they have been “strung along, kept in the dark and lied to by the Malaysian government”.

One woman was dragged away by the authorities as she screamed

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein called the process “a long haul” as he thanked the more than two dozen countries involved in a search that stretches from Kazakhstan in Central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysia asked the US for undersea surveillance equipment to help in the search, said John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. Defence secretary Chuck Hagel promised to assess the availability of the technology and its usefulness in the search, Kirby said.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled.

They are unsure what happened next but the final hour of communication recorded a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.

Police are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

Additional reporting by PA