De­spair voiced in hunt for plane

Fam­i­lies feel hope of sur­vival fad­ing; Pres­i­dent Xi pledges to make all-out ef­forts

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By CUI JIA in Bei­jing and PENG YIN­ING in Kuala Lumpur

Friends and fam­ily mem­bers of the Chi­nese pas­sen­gers on the miss­ing Malaysia Air­lines plane told of their dev­as­ta­tion on Thurs­day af­ter Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties said new satel­lite im­agery had lo­cated two large ob­jects pos­si­bly re­lated to the flight.

Dur­ing a phone call with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said China will keep close con­tact and co­op­er­a­tion with Aus­tralia in the search. He pledged all-out ef­forts as long as hope re­mains.

One of the ob­jects, found in the In­dian Ocean about 2,500 km south­west of the Aus­tralian city of Perth, is about 24 me­ters long.

This was dis­closed by John Young, gen­eral man­ager of the emer­gency re­sponse di­vi­sion of the Aus­tralian Mar­itime Safety Author­ity, at a news con­fer­ence. Four air­craft were redi­rected to search for the ob­jects. How­ever, the air­craft failed to lo­cate the ob­jects on Thurs­day be­cause of poor vis­i­bil­ity and the Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties sus­pended the hunt un­til Fri­day.

Ab­bott said at a news con­fer­ence, “This is prob­a­bly the best lead we have right now.”

Young said the satel­lite im­agery was in­suf­fi­ciently de­tailed to pro­vide a di­rect link with the Boe­ing 777-200.

But he said there is a pos­si­bil­ity that the ob­jects might be de­bris from flight MH370, which was car­ry­ing 239 crew and pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing 154 Chi­nese, when it dis­ap­peared from radar screens on March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian cap­i­tal, to Bei­jing.

The satel­lite im­ages, pro­vided by US com­pany DigitalGlobe, are stamped with a recorded date of March 16, mean­ing that the ob­jects could have drifted far from the orig­i­nal site by now.

Some fam­ily mem­bers and friends of the Chi­nese pas­sen­gers watched the Aus­tralian Mar­itime Safety Author­ity news con­fer­ence live at the Metropark Lido Ho­tel in Bei­jing, where they have been ac­com­mo­dated by Malaysia Air­lines. Many said they felt dev­as­tated on hear­ing about the pos­si­ble new clues in the hunt for the plane.

“The news of find­ing pos­si­ble de­bris means my son’s chances of sur­vival have be­come ex­tremely small,” a man sur­named Zou said.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Hong Lei said at a news brief­ing, “China highly val­ues the lat­est in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties.”

Liang Yang, spokesman for the Chi­nese navy, said its search ves­sels are head­ing to the area where the ob­jects were spotted.

A Royal Aus­tralian Air Force Orion air­craft ar­rived in the area to iden­tify the ob­jects. A fur­ther three air­craft were sent to the area by the Aus­tralian res­cue co­or­di­na­tion cen­ter, in­clud­ing a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion and a United States Navy P8 Po­sei­don.

A Boe­ing 777 pi­lot with Malaysia Air­lines, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said the 24-me­ter-long ob­ject might be one of the air­craft’s wings.

The plane is about 60 me­ters long and 60 me­ters wide.

A staff mem­ber from Boe­ing China said the reg­is­tered num­bers on ma­jor com­po­nents can usu­ally in­di­cate the type of plane they are from.

If the ob­jects lo­cated by Aus­tralia were from an air­craft, it could eas­ily be de­ter­mined if they were from the miss­ing jet.

Aus­tralia took the lead in search­ing for the plane over the south­ern In­dian Ocean af­ter the Malaysian govern­ment ex­panded the search area to cover a north­ern sec­tor stretch­ing from the borders of Kaza­khstan and Turk­menistan to north­ern Thai­land and a south­ern sec­tor stretch­ing from In­done­sia to the south­ern In­dian Ocean.

China’s Antarc­tic re­search ice­breaker, Xue­long, is ready to join the search for the plane in the area where the ob­jects were spotted, the coun­try’s mar­itime au­thor­i­ties said on Thurs­day.

The ship was an­chored in Perth.

The Royal Aus­tralian Navy ship HMAS Suc­cess is sail­ing to the area but is some days away.

The ship is well equipped to re­cover any ob­jects found that prove to be from the plane, Hisham­mud­din Hus­sein, Malaysia’s de­fense min­is­ter and act­ing trans­port min­is­ter, said at a sched­uled news brief­ing in Kuala Lumpur.

The Nor­we­gian car ferry Hoegh St. Peters­burg has reached the area. It was sail­ing from Mada­gas­car to Mel­bourne when it re­ceived a re­quest from the Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties to help with search­ing for the ob­jects.

At least 25 air­craft and 18 ships are con­duct­ing the search in the south­ern sec­tor. Hou Liqiang and Wang Wen in Bei­jing con­trib­uted to this story.

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