Search planes sent to find objects in the south Indian Ocean that may be from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet began returning without success on Friday, and an Australian official said the hunt would be extended again for another day.
The planes are part of an international effort to solve the nearly 2-week-old aviation mystery by locating two large objects a satellite detected floating off the southwest coast of Australia about halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.
The area in the southern Indian Ocean is so remote that it takes aircraft four hours to fly there and four hours back, and leaves them only about two hours to search.
The satellite discovery raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.
But like the first day of searching, efforts so far have been fruitless, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.
“Although this search area is much smaller than we started with, it nonetheless is a big area when you’re looking out the window and trying to see something by eye,” Young said. “So we may have to do this a few times to be confident about the coverage of that search area,” he said.
Five planes were sent out, with the last expected to head back to Perth in western Australia about 1100 GMT, he said.
Young said that although the weather improved from Thursday, there was still some low cloud cover over the search area 2,300 kilometers (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.
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, Young said.
AMSA officials are also looking to see if there is any new satellite imagery that can help provide searchers with new or more information, he said.
Speaking at a news conference in Papua New Guinea, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “We’ve been throwing everything we’ve got at that area to try to learn more about what this debris might be.”
Abbott spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he described as “devastated.” Of the 227 passengers on the missing flight, 154 were from China.
“It’s about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the earth, but if there is anything down there we will find it. We owe it to the families of those people to do no less,” Abbott said.
The development also marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials for what the relatives say has been the slow release of timely information.
In Beijing, relatives met Friday with Malaysian officials at the Lido Hotel, where most have been staying awaiting the latest news.
Those who spoke said they had a two—hour briefing about the search but that nothing new was said.AP