‘Best lead’ in plane search: 2 objects seen in sea

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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)

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)

This Wednesday, March 19, 2014 photo released by the Australia Defence Department, shows Royal Australian Air Force Flight Engineer, Warrant Officer Ron Day from 10 Squadron, on board an AP-3C Orion over the Southern Indian Ocean off the Western Australian coast during a search operation for the missing Malaysian 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) — A freighter used searchlights early Friday to scan rough seas in one of the remotest places on Earth after satellite images detected possible pieces from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane in the southern Indian Ocean.

In what officials called the “best lead” of the nearly two-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two objects floating about 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia and halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

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

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 southwestern Australia, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.

“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 container.

Four military planes searched the area Thursday without success but will resume later Friday morning, Australian officials said.

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, arrived in the area and used searchlights after dark to look for debris. It will continue the search Friday, said Ingar Skiaker of Hoegh Autoliners, speaking to reporters in Oslo.

The Norwegian ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia, he said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Satellite imagery experts said the lead is worth investigating.

“It would be very nice if you could see a whole wing floating there, then you could say, ‘OK that’s an airplane.’ When you’re looking at something like this you can’t tell what it is,” said Sean O’Connor, an imagery analyst with IHS Janes.

But another analyst said the debris is most likely not pieces of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There have been several false leads since the Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from other shipping are probably large,” said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The development marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials for not releasing timely information about the plane. While they still hope their loved ones will somehow be found, they acknowledged that news of the satellite images could mean the plane fell into the sea.

“If it turns out that it is truly MH370, then we will accept that fate,” said

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