Missing plane: More than 120 objects sighted in search

KUALA LUMPUR - New satellite images provided by a French defense firm show 122 objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean, not far from other satellite sightings that could be related to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the Malaysian transport minister said Wednesday.

The objects were scattered over 154 square miles (400 square kilometers), acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Bin Hussein said.

Hishammuddin said he wasn't sure if Australian authorities coordinating the search for the plane had been able to follow up Wednesday on the new satellite images, which came from Airbus Defence and Space.

"I'll have to wait and see what reports come back from today's search," he said. "This new information has just been relayed to them."

Search aircraft -- back in the air Wednesday after a one-day weather delay -- did spot three objects, but none were obvious plane parts, the Australian Maritime Safety Agency said.

A civil aircraft in the search spotted two objects that were probably rope, the agency said, and a New Zealand military plane spotted a blue object. None was found again when aircraft made further passes, the agency said on Twitter.

Seven military reconnaissance planes -- from Australia, China, New Zealand, the United States, Japan and South Korea -- and five civil aircraft are making flights over the vast search area, which covers 469,407 square nautical miles.

And five ships, one from Australia and four from China, are in the search zone, Australian authorities said.

Satellites have detected objects afloat in the ocean over the past week and a half. And Australian and Chinese surveillance planes both reported seeing items of debris on the surface this week, but so far nothing has been recovered or definitively linked to the missing flight.

Officials have warned that objects spotted in the water may turn out to be flotsam from cargo ships, and that finding anything from the plane could still take a long time.

"There's always a possibility we might not actually find something next week or the week after," Mark Binskin, vice chief of the Australian Defence Force, told CNN's Kate Bolduan on Tuesday. "I think eventually, something will come to light, but it's going to take time."

If search teams are able to find debris confirmed to be from the plane, it would help officials figure out roughly where the aircraft went down.

They would then be able to focus the search under the water to try to find larger pieces of wreckage and the all-important flight data recorder, which may hold vital clues about what happened on board the night the plane disappeared.

U.S. hardware designed to help with that task arrived Wednesday in Perth, the western Australian city that is the base for the search efforts.

The United States sent a Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle, which can search for submerged objects at depths as low as 14,700 feet (4,480 meters), and a TPL-25, a giant listening device that can help pinpoint the location of pings from the flight data recorder. Towed behind a ship, the TPL-25 can detect pings at a maximum depth of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).

Time is against that part of the search though as the plane's pinger is expected to run out of power within the next two weeks. The Indian Ocean has an average depth of about 13,000 feet (3,962 meters).

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