Tag Archives: Australia

US Fails to Verify Number of ‘Russian Troops’ in Ukraine

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US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said that the United States lacks precise figures and is unable to confirm the number of Russian military units reportedly stationed in eastern Ukraine. WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States lacks precise figures and is unable to confirm the number of Russian military units reportedly stationed in eastern Ukraine, US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf stated at a press briefing. “It is really hard to get precise information about Russian troop numbers specifically, but we know there is a substantial Russian presence,” Harf said on Thursday. It is difficult for the United States to verify figures, Harf claimed, because Russia deliberately camouflages its involvement in the region. On Wednesday, the US State Department accused Russia of violating the Minsk agreement by sending weapons and forces and conducting joint training exercises with pro-Russian “separatists” in eastern Ukraine. Last week, the US Army announced that some 300 US paratroopers arrived in the western Ukraine city of Yavoriv to train Ukrainian troops, which the Russian Foreign Ministry has said is a violation of the Minsk agreement. On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry expressed concern over the training of the Ukrainian National Guard by US military instructors along the separation line between Kiev-led forces and armed militia in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday re-iterating that the arrival of US paratroopers could signal a first step toward supplying Ukraine with advanced weapons, and the support of Ukrainian war hawks could lead to new bloodshed. Kiev is planning to hold three joint exercises with US troops. Besides Fearless Guardian 2015, which is underway in Yavoriv and planned to last for six more months, Ukrainian and US army will have joint drills dubbed Sea Breeze 2015 and Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident 2015 later this year. The armed conflict in Ukraine began in April 2014 when Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters in the country’s southeast. Relations between the West and Russia soured amid the Ukrainian crisis as Western countries accused Russia of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.

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Victims of Sydney siege hailed as heroes after they die protecting hostages

Tori Johnson, 34, the manager of Lindt Chocolat Cafe (left) and barrister Katrina Dawson, 38, who were both tragically killed in an armed siege at a coffe shop in Sydney

A mother of three and a man who died trying to save other hostages from an Islamist gunman have been named as the two victims of the Sydney siege.Katrina Dawson, 38, a barrister and mother of young children, and Tori Johnson, the 34-year-old manager of the Lindt cafe on Martin Place, were killed as police made a daring attempt to free those still held.Police confirmed that two hostages and the hostage-taker, Iraninan-born refugee Man Haron Monis, died and four others were injured during the operation that brought the 17-hour siege to an end.The two have been hailed as heroes for trying to save the others trapped in the cafe. Mr Johnson had tried to wrestle the shotgun from the 50-year-old self-styled preacher after he had fallen asleep at around 2am.Six people managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from inside after a struggle between Mr Johnson and Monis ended in the manager being shot.

Police then moved in, with heavy gunfire and blasts from stun grenades echoing from the building.

Mrs Dawson, a respected barrister from Eighth Floor Selborne chambers, whose offices are opposite the cafe, was said to have been killed in the ensuing firefight while protecting pregnant friend and colleague Julie Taylor, whom she had been meeting for a coffee.

Mrs Dawson is the daughter of a prominent businessman, attended Ascham, one of Sydney’s most exclusive private girl’s schools, and topped the state in her leaving certificate before graduating from Sydney University.

She died of a heart attack on the way to hospital, while Mr Johnson, who had worked at the Lindt store for two years, died at the scene of a gunshot wound.

At a prayer service in St. Mary’s Cathedral just yards from the cafe on Tuesday, Archbishop Anthony Fisher said the two were heroes “willing to lay down their lives so others might live.”

The Archbishop said: “Reports have emerged this morning of the heroism of the male victim of this siege.

“Apparently seeing an opportunity Tori Johnson grabbed the gun, tragically it went off killing him. But it triggered the response of the police and eventual freedom for most of the hostages. The heart of our city is broken by the deaths of two innocents”.

Hundreds lay flowers and gathered outside the church at Martin Place near the site of the siege.

Jane Needham, the president of the NSW Bar Association, confirmed Mrs Dawson’s death, saying: “Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends at the NSW Bar.

“She was a devoted mother of three children, and a valued member of her floor and of our bar community. Our thoughts are with her family at this time, including her brother, Sandy Dawson of Banco Chambers.”

Deborah Thomas, a family friend of Mr Johnson’s, wrote on social media: “Tori Johnson loved partner of Thomas, son of Ken, siblings Jamie & Rhada. RIP you beautiful boy. We seek comfort in your heroic actions.”

His parents Ken and Rowena released a statement on Tuesday morning, saying: “We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for.”

Mr Johnson was remembered by former colleagues for putting others first.

“He was an amazing man,” former workmate Peter Manettas said. “He was a selfless person who always put staff above everyone.”

At least four were wounded, including a policeman hit in the face with shotgun pellets. Among the wounded was a 75-year-old woman who was shot in the shoulder, police said.

Two pregnant women, including Oxford University-educated Mrs Taylor, were among hostages currently being treated in hospital, and another injured woman has been identified as Marcia Mikhael, who was forced to send out a video plea detailing the gunman’s request.

Marcia Mikhael

Marcia Mikhael

In the messages, which were briefly uploaded to YouTube before the service took them down, hostages can be seen standing in front of a black Islamist flag and the Lindt cafe logo.

The four videos show female hostages reading from a script, saying the siege was an Islamic State attack on Australia.

The last video shows a hostage saying: “Our ISIS brother has been very kind to us.”

Ms Mikhael, 42, a bank executive, was buying a morning coffee at the Lindt Cafe when Monis slipped inside, locked the doors, and told those present they were being held hostage.

“Please help,” she wrote on Facebook from inside the café. “The man who is keeping us hostage has asked for small and simple requests and none have been met.

“He is now threatening to start killing us. We need help right now. The man wants the world to know that Australia is under attack by the Islamic State.”

She kept up her commentary on Facebook, stating that Monis was angered because his claim to be an Isil militant was not being broadcast.

She also said that Monis demanded an Islamic State flag, and to speak with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott via live broadcast. She said he had asked that “brothers” do not detonate two bombs located in the city. Police now believe that that was a hoax, and he was working alone.

But after over 16 hours, Monis was killed and Ms Mikhael – evidently shocked and crying with pain, having been injured when police stormed the café – was carried out on the shoulders of police.

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Flight MH370 families start fund to uncover truth about vanished jet

A Chinese relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 prays in front of candles.

Not satisfied with the lack of progress being made on locating Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, relatives of passengers are planning to launch a $5 million fundraising campaign aimed at triggering another investigation.

According to a report by USA Today, the campaign will seek $3 million to reward a whistleblower for coming forward with new information and $2 million for private investigators to look into any other leads that emerge.

The campaign has been dubbed “Reward MH370: The Search for the Truth,” and will officially launch on Monday through the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. Composed of families from the United States, Australia, France, India, and New Zealand, the campaign does not include the participation of Chinese or Malaysian families, whose relatives were the primary travelers on the plane.

As for why these families decided they needed to start such an effort, American Sarah Bajc – whose partner, Philip Wood, was on the plane when it disappeared – said it’s necessary considering the failure to locate the plan up to this point.

“We are taking matters into our own hands,” Bajc told USA Today. “There is no credible evidence” the plane is somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. “I’m convinced that somebody is concealing something.”

Although Bajc is certainly not alone in feeling that way, these accusations have been denied by officials conducting the search.

“Nothing important is being concealed in any way,” said Angus Houston, the head of Australia’s joint agency managing the search. “My approach has always been to be as open as I could possibly be.”

Houston acknowledged that not all the information is out in public just yet, but that a complete review is underway and should be finished sometime in June.

Meanwhile, Malaysian officials have also denied that transparency is an issue, though the country’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein has stated that “requests made by next-of-kin and international media cannot be accommodated 100%.”

While Bajc is hopeful and believes outside action must be taken, she is also cautioning those who donate. Even if the campaign is fully funded, results are not guaranteed.

“Granted, $2 million in investigation services won’t go very far,” Bajc told USA Today. “Clearly, they’ve already spent $100 million, and they’ve gotten nothing. But we’re not going to approach it with boats in the ocean. We’re going to approach it with human intelligence.”

As far as the official search goes, the US Navy’s deputy director of ocean engineering Micheal Dean said at the end of May that the four pings believed to have been coming from MH370’s black box were actually coming from an unrelated source. As RT reported then, Dean said there was no evidence suggesting the pings came from the black boxes, and the international group charged with finding the plane halted its search for debris in the suspected area of the Indian Ocean.

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Bluefin submersible fails to find Boeing 777 on designated search area

Bluefin-21 submersible

SYDNEY, April 28

Bluefin-21 submersible has finished the exploration of the area, which was initially designated for it to search for missing Malaysian Boeing 777 and failed to find any objects of interest, according to representatives of the search coordination center that continues operating in Australia’s Perth.

Despite lack of results, the rescuers decided to continue using the submersible: at present, Bluefin-21 is making its 16th immersion and explores the bottom of neighboring sections.

On Sunday, there were no search operations involving planes and ships due to a strong storm in the ocean. On Monday, weather conditions improved, and it made possible to go on with the search operation. In the course of the day, nine planes and 12 ships will be monitoring a 54,920 square km area in some 1,670 km from Perth.

Vanished airliner

Boeing 777-200 of Malaysian Airlines was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing March 7. It carried 227 passengers and 12 crewmembers onboard. Communication with the jet was interrupted nearly two hours after its departure from the Malaysian capital. Since then, there was no information about the missing airliner.

March 24, the air carrier issued a statement informing about the death of all people who were onboard of the missing plane.

According to experts, the search operation involving 26 countries may become the most expensive in aviation’s history. $44 million are already spent on the search, and the overall expenditures may reach several hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Missing Malaysian jet’s black box batteries may have died

The Associated Press

A U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon takes off from Perth Airport en route to rejoin the ongoing search operations for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia, Sunday, April 13, 2014.

Following four strong underwater signals in the past week, all has gone quiet in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, meaning the batteries in the plane’s all-important black boxes may finally have died.

Despite having no new transmissions from the black boxes’ locator beacons to go on, air and sea crews were continuing their search in the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday for debris and any sounds that may still be emanating. They are desperately trying to pinpoint where the Boeing 777 could be amid an enormous patch of deep ocean.

No new electronic pings have been detected since Tuesday by an Australian ship dragging a U.S. Navy device that listens for flight recorder signals. Once officials are confident that no more sounds will be heard, a robotic submersible will be sent down to slowly scour for wreckage.

“We’re now into Day 37 of this tragedy,” said aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas. “The battery life on the beacons is supposed to last 30 days. We’re hoping it might last 40 days. However, it’s been four or five days since the last strong pings. What they’re hoping for is to get one more, maybe two more pings so they can do a triangulation of the sounds and try and narrow the (search) area.”

Recovering the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders is essential for investigators to try to figure out what happened to Flight 370, which vanished March 8. It was carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese, while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

After analyzing satellite data, officials believe the plane flew off course for an unknown reason and went down in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia’s west coast. Investigators trying to determine what happened to the plane are focusing on four areas – hijacking, sabotage and personal or psychological problems of those on board.

Two sounds heard a week ago by the Australian ship Ocean Shield, which was towing the ping locator, were determined to be consistent with the signals emitted from the black boxes. Two more pings were detected in the same general area Tuesday, but no new ones have been picked up since then.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has expressed confidence that the pings picked up by the Ocean Shield were coming from the plane’s two black boxes, but he cautioned that finding the actual aircraft could take a long time.

“There’s still a lot more work to be done and I don’t want anyone to think that we are certain of success, or that success, should it come, is going to happen in the next week or even month. There’s a lot of difficulty and a lot of uncertainty left in this,” Abbott said Saturday in Beijing, where he was wrapping up a visit to China.

Searchers want to pinpoint the exact location of the source of the sounds – or as close as they can get – before sending the Bluefin 21 submersible down. It will not be deployed until officials are confident that no other electronic signals will come, and that they have narrowed the search area as much as possible.

The underwater search zone is currently a 1,300-square-kilometre patch of the seabed, about the size of Los Angeles.

The sub takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping locator, and will need about six weeks to two months to canvass the current underwater zone. The signals are also coming from 4,500 metres below the surface, which is the deepest the sub can dive.

The surface area being searched on Sunday for floating debris was 57,506 square kilometres) of ocean extending about 2,200 kilometres northwest of Perth. Up to 12 planes and 14 ships were participating in the hunt.

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Two more “pings” detected in search for MH370

An Australian ship detected two new “ping signals” Tuesday, while searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

An Australian ship detected two new “ping signals” Tuesday, while searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Two new “ping” signals have been detected in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, reviving confidence in the month-old hunt, Australian officials said on Wednesday.

Australian ship Ocean Shield detected one ping that lasted for over five minutes on Tuesday afternoon, while a second one was detected on Tuesday night and lasted for about seven minutes, Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search, said.

“Ocean Shield has been able to reacquire the signals on two more occasions, late yesterday afternoon and later last night,” Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Center said.

“I believe we are searching in the right area but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370,” Houston added.

The U.S. Navy “ping locater” detected two signals that were consistent with black box beacons. The first lasted for more than two hours while the second was only for about 13 minutes.

Flights’ black boxes record cockpit data, and could provide information on the fate of the plane, but the batteries in the beacons have already exceeded their 30-day life expectancy.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur on March 8 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members. Its signal disappeared after it flew thousands of kilometers into the Indian Ocean towards Beijing, its destination.

Satellite data analysts and investigators centered the search to an approximate area of 2,261 kilometers northwest Australia’s Perth, in a remote area where they concluded the Boeing 777 could be.

The new signals may allow searchers to narrow the area even more.

“Now hopefully with lots of transmissions we’ll have a tight, small area and hopefully in a matter of days we will be able to find something on the bottom,” Houston said.

While authorities did not rule out the possibility of mechanical problems leading to the disappearance of the plane, they said evidence suggests the plane was deliberately diverted by someone familiar with the aircraft.

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MH370 search could take years, U.S. navy official says, as nations race to find black box before its too late

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could take years, a senior U.S. Navy official said Sunday, as search and rescue officials raced to locate the plane’s black box recorder days before its batteries are set to die.

Ten ships and as many aircraft are searching a massive area in the Indian Ocean west of Perth, in Australia, trying to find some trace of the aircraft, which went missing more than three weeks ago and is presumed to have crashed.

The Malaysian government announced moves to tighten airport security, but the head of the U.S. senate intelligence committee said there was no evidence that terrorism had any role to play in the flight’s disappearance. “There’s speculation, but there’s nothing,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein. “This is a very difficult mission.”

Among the vessels to join the search is an Australian defence force ship, the Ocean Shield, that has been fitted with a sophisticated U.S. black box locator and an underwater drone.

Captain Mark Matthews, a U.S. navy officer who is in charge of the black box pinger detector, said the search area of 123,000 square miles needs to be significantly reduced before there is any serious prospect of finding the black box.

“Right now the search area is basically the size of the Indian Ocean, which would take an untenable amount of time to search,” he said.

Todd Curtis, an aviation expert and former Boeing engineer, warned that the hunt for the plane could last for years.

He said the black box was unlikely to be found before its 30-day pinger, which helps searchers to locate both the box and the plane, runs out of battery life in about a week.

“The likelihood of finding the plane quickly, especially given the pinger will soon end, is going down astronomically,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“Even if they found the debris today, there is the problem of estimating where it drifted over the past three weeks and then estimating the new area. It all has the potential to take much more than two years.”

Dr Curtis said the search was likely to be “very prolonged” and may end in failure. “There is a chance they will never find the plane,” he said.

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The failure to find any wreckage from the plane has been harrowing for the families of the 239 passengers, many of whom continue to cling to the hope that survivors will be found.

Twenty-nine distraught Chinese family members flew to Malaysia yesterday, demanding that the authorities “reveal the truth” and “hand over the murderer.” At an emotive press conference they chanted: “We want the evidence, we want the truth, we want our families back.”

 National Post.

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Russia not clinging to G8 if West does not want it – Russian FM

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Russia is not clinging to the G8 format, as all major world problems can be discussed at other international venues such as G20, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

“The G8 is an informal club, no one gives out membership cards and no one can expel members,” Lavrov told a media conference at the Hague. “If our Western partners believe that this format has exhausted itself, let it be. We are not clinging to it.”

He went on to say that many believe that the G8 has already fulfilled its mission as many issues are now discussed at the G20 forum.

“Generally speaking, there are also other formats for considering many questions, including the UN Security Council, the Middle East Quartet and the P5+1 on the Iranian nuclear problem,” Lavrov told journalists.

The Minister also commented on earlier reports regarding Australia considering not inviting President Vladimir Putin to the November G20 meeting, which is going to be held in Brisbane.

“The G20 was not established by Australia, which voiced the proposal not to invite Russia to the meeting. We created the format all together,” Lavrov said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends the opening session of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague on March 24, 2014.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends the opening session of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague on March 24, 2014.

Russia’s top diplomat is in the Netherlands, where representatives of over 50 states and chiefs of the UN, the EU, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Police Office have gathered for the Nuclear Security Summit to address the threat of nuclear terrorism.

On the sidelines of the gathering, Lavrov met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and yet again discussed the Ukraine question, which has caused quite a chill in relations between the two powers.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in The Hague on March 24, 2014.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in The Hague on March 24, 2014.

Both Moscow and Washington understand that Ukraine needs constitutional reform, Lavrov said.

“We discussed the necessity to call on the authorities in Kiev to pay serious attention to the constitutional reform, which would take into consideration the interests of all Ukrainian regions,” he said.

However, Lavrov admitted, that it is their evaluation of the situation and they “cannot impose” this idea on the Ukrainian leadership. Still, it would be very difficult to overcome the “Ukraine’s deep internal crisis” without such a reform, the Russian minister believes.

According to Lavrov, Kerry realizes that it is necessary to “push” the Ukrainian authorities into fulfilling the February-21 agreement on the crisis settlement, which was signed by ousted President Viktor Yanukovich, opposition leaders and foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland.

On Friday, Ukraine’s coup-imposed government and the EU signed the core elements of a political association agreement; this is part of the deal with the EU (that was predominantly economic) that Yanukovich put on hold in November, which resulted in mass bloody unrest and his ousting.

In Lavrov’s view, the coup-installed authorities in Kiev should have waited until a legitimate government was formed in the country after elections, and should have only then decided whether to sign an agreement with Brussels.

“Presidential elections were announced for the end May rather than December as it had been agreed upon in the February 21 accords. A constitutional reform should be carried out before the vote,” he said. “Perhaps, it would be right from all points of view, I would say it would be more ethical towards [Ukrainian] people to wait for a more legitimate situation in Kiev, and within the Ukrainian leadership before signing any agreements on behalf of their state.”

At The Hague, Lavrov met for the first time with Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchitsa.

The tete-a-tete was initiated by the Ukrainian side.

“I told him how we see the steps that officials appointed by the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament) should take in order to finally establish normal nationwide dialogue,” Lavrov said.

Ahead of the meeting, Deshchytsa told journalists that he was hoping to discuss with Lavrov peaceful ways of settling the existing situation between Moscow and Kiev.

Relations between the two neighboring states – former Soviet republics – sharply deteriorated after the February military coup which brought ultra-nationalists to power in Kiev and split the country with eastern regions of Ukraine strongly opposing the new leadership and western regions of the country supporting it.

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea – home to an ethnic Russian majority – refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new government which they feared would not respect their rights. In a move that proved Crimeans’ concerns, parliament voted to revoke the law that allowed regions to give Russian and other minority languages the status of a second official language.

Crimea held a referendum on March 16 where over 96 percent of voters decided to rejoin Russia rather than remain part of Ukraine. On March 21, Crimea and the city of Sevastopol officially became part of Russia – or rather “retuned home,” as many Crimeans say. The region was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev without consent of its population.

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MH370 lost, plane went down in Indian Ocean, no survivors – Malaysia Airlines

malaysia-flight.si

Malaysian airlines have announced beyond any reasonable doubt that flight MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived.

The airline has informed the relatives of those on board the doomed flight that the plane is “lost” with no survivors.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has made an announcement, saying “It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

The Boeing 777-200 disappeared from civilian radar screens on the night of the March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board, en route for Beijing.

There were reports that military radar picked up an unidentified plane, after the stricken jet lost contact with air traffic controllers, which had made a sharp turn as well as descending to a much lower altitude before heading out into the Indian Ocean.

There have been no confirmed sightings of the plane or any debris that can be conclusively linked to it after an international search that has lasted two weeks. The search over the Indian Ocean entered its fifth day on Monday.

The UK Air Accidents Investigations Branch told the Malaysian authorities that the planes final location was above the southern Indian Ocean.

By this he meant satellite data automatically sent by the stricken plane, concluded that the flight ended in an air corridor over the southern Indian Ocean.

“We share this information out of a commitment to openness and respect for the families, two principles guiding this information.”

A crewman of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircraft looks at a screen while searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean March 24, 2014.

A crewman of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircraft looks at a screen while searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean March 24, 2014.

His somber announcement comes just a few hours after the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said that an Australian navy plane searching the area had spotted debris floating in the sea and that a ship from the Australian navy, HMAS Success, was just a few hours away and would hopefully be able to identify the floating objects.

Many theories have been put forward by a range of experts on what could have happened to the missing plane. One of the most convincing was by a Canadian pilot, Christopher Goodfellow, who said there may have been an electrical fire on board, which would have disabled many of the plane systems, although not all of them.

The pilots would have dropped altitude quickly and changed course to try and land the crippled plane at the nearest available airport, but before they could do this they and everybody else on board would have been overcome by smoke inhalation, while the plane flew on auto pilot before running out of fuel over the Indian Ocean.

Also earlier today a Chinese plane sighted objects in the search area, but different to those seen by the Australian air crew.

Three areas were identified for operations on Monday, totaling 20,000 square nautical miles with 10 aircraft being used.

While Australia is currently the only country to have a ship in the area, a number of Chinese vessels will arrive on Tuesday together with a further three aircraft – two from Japan and one from the UAE.

While 6 Malaysian ships are in the north part of the southern corridor and HMS Echo, a British survey ship, is in the Maldives refueling and will sail to the southern corridor on Monday evening.

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French data show possible debris from jetliner

PERTH, Australia (AP)France provided new satellite data Sunday showing possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, as searchers combing a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean tried without success to locate a pallet that could be a key clue in solving one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries.

The new information given to Malaysia’s government and forwarded to searchers in Australia shows “potential objects” in the same part of the ocean where satellite images previously released by Australia and China showed objects that could be debris from the plane, Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said in a statement without providing further details.

Flight 370 went missing over the Gulf of Thailand on March 8 with 239 people aboard en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search effort that has turned up nothing conclusive so far on what happened to the jet.

Sunday’s search was frustrating because “there was cloud down to the surface and at times we were completely enclosed by cloud,” Royal Australian Air Force flight Lt. Russell Adams told reporters at the military base where the planes take off and land on their missions.

Nothing of interest to searchers was found, he said, adding that the search is worth it because “we might do 10 sorties and find nothing, but on that 11th flight when you find something and you know that you’re actually contributing to some answers for somebody.”

Details on the French data were not immediately released. The statement from Malaysia called the information “new satellite images,” while a statement from France’s Foreign Ministry said “radar echoes taken by a satellite” had located floating debris but made no mention of imagery.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is leading the search in waters off Australia, declined to offer details about the information from France. The authority did not respond to multiple requests by The Associated Press for access to the data.

“Any satellite images or other new information that comes to AMSA is being considered in developing the search plans,” AMSA said.

But a Malaysian official involved in the search mission said the French data consisted of radar echoes captured Friday and converted into fuzzy images that located objects about 930 kilometers (575 miles) north of the spots where the objects in the images released by Australia and China were located.

One of the objects located was estimated to be about the same size as an object captured Tuesday by the Chinese satellite that appeared to be 22 meters (72 feet) by 13 meters (43 feet), said the official, who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak to the media. It was not possible to determine precise dimensions from the French data, the official said.

Information about the new data emerged as authorities coordinating the search, which is being conducted about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, sent planes and a ship to try to “re-find” a wooden pallet that appeared to be surrounded by straps of varying lengths and colors. It was spotted Saturday by spotters in a search plane, but no images were captured of it and a military PC Orion military plane dispatched to locate the pallet could not find it.

“So, we’ve gone back to that area again today to try and re-find it,” said Mike Barton, chief of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s rescue coordination center. An Australian navy ship was also involved in the search.

Wooden pallets are commonly used in shipping, but can also be used in cargo containers carried on planes.

AMSA said the aircraft that spotted the pallet was unable to take photos of it.

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