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Air search expands in remote south Indian Ocean

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In this undated handout picture made available by hoegh.com via NTB Scanpix on Thursday, March 20, 2014, of autoliner “Hoegh St. Petersburg” which is expected to reach an area south west of Australia where possible debris of missing airliner MH370 has been spotted. The ship is expected to arrive in the area in the course of Thursday March 20, 2014. (AP Photo/hoegh.com/ NTB scanpix) NORWAY OUT

In this undated handout picture made available by hoegh.com via NTB Scanpix on Thursday, March 20, 2014, of autoliner “Hoegh St. Petersburg” which is expected to reach an area south west of Australia where possible debris of missing airliner MH370 has been spotted. The ship is expected to arrive in the area in the course of Thursday March 20, 2014. (AP Photo/hoegh.com/ NTB scanpix) NORWAY OUT

In this March 16, 2014 satellite imagery provided by Commonwealth of Australia – Department of Defence on Thursday, March 20, 2014, a floating object is seen at sea next to the descriptor which was added by the source. Australia’s government reported Thursday, March 20, 2014 that the images show suspected debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner floating in an area 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth Australia. (AP Photo/Commonwealth of Australia – Department of Defence)

Map shows search areas for missing Malaysia Airlines missing jet.; 3c x 5 inches; 146 mm x 127 mm;

In this March 16, 2014 satellite imagery provided by Commonwealth of Australia – Department of Defence on Thursday, March 20, 2014, a floating object is seen at sea next to the descriptor which was added by the source. Australia’s government reported Thursday, March 20, 2014 that the images show suspected debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner floating in an area 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth Australia. (AP Photo/Commonwealth of Australia – Department of Defence)

In this Wednesday, March 19, 2014 photo released by the Australia Defence Department, Royal Australian Air Force Airborne Electronics Analyst, Flight Sgt. Tom Stewart from 10 Squadron, on board an AP-3C Orion watches a radar screen over the Southern Indian Ocean off the Western Australian coast during a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Thursday that two objects possibly related to the missing flight have been spotted on satellite imagery in the Indian Ocean and an air force aircraft was diverted to the area to try to locate them. (AP Photo/Australia Defence Department, Hamish Paterson)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Search planes flew out of Australia on Friday to scour rough seas in one of the remotest places on Earth for objects that may be from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

In what one official called the “best lead” of the nearly 2-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two large objects 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 is takes aircraft longer to fly there — four hours — than it allows for the search.

The discovery raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.

A search Thursday with four planes in cloud and rain found nothing, and Australian authorities said early Friday efforts were resuming with the first of five aircraft — a Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion — leaving at dawn for the area about 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) from western Australia.

A civilian Gulfstream jet and a second Orion were to depart later Friday morning and a third Orion was due to fly out in the early afternoon to scour more than 23,000 square kilometers (8,880 square miles) of ocean.

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft was scheduled to leave the base at about 4 p.m. (0600 GMT), but like the other planes, it will have enough fuel for only two to three hours of search time before returning to Perth.

A New Zealand P-3 Orion plane took part in the unsuccessful search Thursday, and Mike Yardley, an air commodore with New Zealand’s air force, said the plane was forced to duck below thick clouds and fog to a very low altitude of 60 meters (200 feet), hampering the operation.

But Yardley was optimistic that the searchers will find the objects. “We will find it — I’m sure about that piece of it. The only reason we wouldn’t find it was that it has sunk,” he said of the large unidentified object spotted by the satellite.

“I’ve been on these missions before when it’s taken a few days to come across it,” he said.

Warren Truss, Australia’s acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is overseas, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that weather conditions in the search area were poor and may get worse.

“And so clearly this is a very, very difficult and challenging search. Weather conditions are not particularly good and risk that they may deteriorate,” Truss said.

One of the objects on the satellite image was 24 meters (almost 80 feet) long and the other was 5 meters (15 feet). There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia, John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division, said Thursday.

“This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now,” Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although the larger object is longer than a standard container.

Truss said officials were checking more satellite images with stronger resolution to find out how far the objects might have shifted since the initial images were captured. “They will have moved because of tides and wind and the like, so the search area is quite broad,” Truss said, adding marker buoys were dropped to help get a better understanding of what drift is likely to

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