The search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 took a new turn on Friday after analysis of satellite data showed that the missing Boeing had flown faster than previously thought and had likely plunged into the waters of the Indian Ocean in an area more than 1,000 km north of where rescuers had been searching for much of the past week.
Aircraft and vessels were redirected to a new search area on Friday morning. Five aircraft had spotted "multiple objects of various colours" in the new area, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said. The photographs will be analysed on Friday night to establish whether the objects were debris from the missing flight.
The unexpected shift in the search area highlighted the difficulties in the unprecedented multi-national search operation for the aircraft, which disappeared more than 20 days ago, early on March 8.
The first week following the aircraft's disappearance had been spent searching in waters east of Malaysia, in the South China Sea, where the Boeing had last established radar contact.
The search was subsequently shifted thousands of kilometers west to the southern Indian Ocean, after an analysis of satellite data established that the Beijing-bound aircraft, carrying 239 people on board including 154 Chinese, 38 Malaysians and 5 Indians, had been diverted far off course by "deliberate action".
The search efforts have brought criticism from China, which deployed all its vessels initially in the South China Sea although it later emerged that Malaysian military radars had tracked the aircraft flying west on the other side of the country on the same day of its disappearance.
It emerged Friday that the past week of searching in the southern Indian Ocean was also being conducted in the wrong area, after a new analysis of satellite data showed that the aircraft had been flying faster than previously thought and likely burned its fuel earlier.
But Malaysian officials said this could not have been established earlier as it required "painstaking" analysis of satellite data.
The AMSA said a New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion had sighted a number of objects "white or light in colour" in the new area, which is around 1,000 km north from where searches had been taking place in remote waters around 2,500 km southwest of Australia.
Ten planes were deployed to the new area, the AMSA said, while a Chinese patrol ship, Haixun 01, will be close enough to the region to locate the sighted objects on Saturday.
If the leads prove credible, this will mark the first instance of the long-winding search operations, through many twists and turns, finally locating the missing Boeing, more than 20 days after its baffling disappearance.