Last updated Saturday, November 01, 2014 01:01am

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said today the objects spotted on satellite images may have sunk as they were taken on March 16. — Reuters picAustralian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said today the objects spotted on satellite images may have sunk as they were taken on March 16. — Reuters pic

PERTH, March 21 — The international team hunting Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the remote southern Indian Ocean failed to turn up anything today, and Australia’s deputy prime minister said the suspected debris may have sunk.

Aircraft and ships have also renewed a search in the Andaman Sea between India and Thailand, going over areas that have already been exhaustively swept to find some clue to unlock one of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation.

The Boeing 777 went missing almost two weeks ago off the Malaysian coast with 239 people aboard. There has been no confirmed sign of wreckage but two objects seen floating deep south in the Indian Ocean were considered a credible lead and set off a huge hunt yesterday.

Australian authorities said the first aircraft to sweep treacherous seas today about 2,500km (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth was on its way back to base without spotting the objects picked out by satellite images five days ago.

“Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating,” Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Perth. “It may have slipped to the bottom.”

But the search was continuing and Australian, New Zealand and US aircraft would be joined by Chinese and Japanese planes over the weekend.

“It’s about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the Earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guinea, where he is on a visit.

“Now it could just be a container that’s fallen off a ship. We just don’t know, but we owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle.”

India said it was sending two aircraft, a Poseidon P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft and a C-130 Hercules transporter, to join the hunt in the southern Indian Ocean. It is also sending another P-8I and four warships to search in the Andaman Sea, where the plane was last seen on military radar on March 8.

In the Gallery


  • Royal Australian Air Force Navigation and Communications Officer, Flying Officer Brittany Sharpe from 10 Squadron, coordinates all communications between her AP-3C Orion and other aircraft involved in the search for missing MH370 flight March 20, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Members of Akhil Bharatiya Human Rights Organisation hold candles and placards as they take part in a candle light vigil for the well-being of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, in Amritsar March 20, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A message for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is seen on big screen in Kuala Lumpur March 20, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • (From left to right) Sebjoern Dahl of Hoegh Autoliners, Sturla Henriksen, managing director of Norwegian Shipowners' Association (NSA) and Ingar Skiaker, CEO of Hoegh Autoliners brief the media on movements of the‘Hoegh St. Petersburg’, in Oslo March 20, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Royal Australian Air Force Flight Engineer, Warrant Officer Ron Day from 10 Squadron, keeps watch for any debris as he flies in an AP-3C Orion over the Southern Indian Ocean during the search for the missing MH370 flight, March 20, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A member of the security team stands near a banner of messages for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 inside a hotel where relatives of the passengers of the missing Boeing 777-200ER are staying at, in Putrajaya March 20, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as he listens to a briefing from Malaysian government at a hotel in Beijing March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A woman walks past a message board in support of the passengers and family members of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, at a shopping mall in Bangsar near Kuala Lumpur March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A woman writes on the message board in support of the passengers and family members of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, at a shopping mall in Damansara March 21, 2014.― Reuters pic

  • A woman cries next to a pillar pasted with updates regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 during a briefing by the Malaysian government at a hotel in Beijing March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 reacts during a briefing by the Malaysian government at a hotel in Beijing March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 grabs his hair during a briefing by the Malaysian government at a hotel in Beijing March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 take pictures of radar information during a briefing by the Malaysian government at a hotel in Beijing March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Malaysia's Lieutenant General Ackbal Samad listens to a question from a family member of a passenger on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 during a briefing at a hotel in Beijing March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Chinese family members of missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 passengers look from inside a bus as they are transported from one hotel to another outside Kuala Lumpur March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Loadmaster Sergeant Adam Roberts scans the ocean during the search for the missing flight MH370 in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Pilot Flight Lieutenant Conan Brett pilots a RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft as it prepares to launch two Self Locating Data Marker Buoys in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • An RAAF AP-3C co-pilot gives a thumbs up to ground crew upon his return from a search of Malaysian Airline Flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth, March 21, 2014. ― Reuters pic

  • International television crews film alongside an RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft which had just returned from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth, March 21, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion crew members unload equipment after returning from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth, Australia, March 21, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion crew members unload equipment after returning from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth, Australia, March 21, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • RAAF AP-3C Orion pilot Russell Adams speaks to the press upon his return from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth, Australia, March 21, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Acting Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein at a press conference at Sama Sama Hotel, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • Acting Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (centre) speaks to media representatives at a press conference at Sama Sama Hotel, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • Reporters and photographers attend the daily MH370 press conference at Sama Sama Hotel, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • An officer pats down a flight crew member at a security checkpoint at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • An officer checking a passenger's documents at a security checkpoint at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • An officer checking the tag of a KLIA personnel at a security checkpoint at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • An officer guarding the media area at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • A 'Come home, MH370' message seen at the viewing gallery at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • A 'Come home, MH370' message seen at the viewing gallery at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, on March 21, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

In New Delhi, officials said the search in areas around the Andaman island chain was not at the request of Malaysian authorities coordinating the global search for the airliner.

“All the navies of the world have SAR regions,” said Capt D.K. Sharma, an Indian navy spokesman, referring to search and rescue regions. “So we’re doing it at our own behest.”

Investigators suspect flight MH370, which took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing shortly after midnight on March 8, was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled path. They say they are focusing on hijacking or sabotage but have not ruled out technical problems.

The search for the plane also continues in other regions, including a wide arc sweeping northward from Laos to Kazakhstan.

In the Indian Ocean, three Australian and two Japanese P-3 Orions joined a high-tech US Navy P-8 Poseidon and a civilian Bombardier Global Express jet to search the 23,000 square km (8,900 sq mile) zone, Australian and Malaysian authorities said.

A Norwegian merchant ship, the Hoegh St Petersburg, was diverted to the area yesterday and another vessel would arrive later today.

An Australian navy ship was expected to arrive in the search area tomorrow and Britain’s HMS Echo, a multi-purpose ocean survey vessel, was also heading to the region, Malaysia said.

China’s icebreaker for Antarctic research, Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, will set off from Perth to search the area, Chinese state news agency Xinhua cited maritime authorities as saying. Up to five more Chinese ships, with three ship-borne helicopters, were steaming towards the search zone from across the Indian Ocean.

Australian authorities said they had not asked for the ships to search the area. About two-thirds of the missing plane’s passengers were Chinese nationals.

Malaysian Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said that searchers were facing a “long haul” but were conscious that the clock was ticking. The plane’s “black box” voice and data recorder only transmits an electronic signal for about 30 days before its battery dies, after which it will be far more difficult to locate.

It took investigators two years to find the black box from an Air France jetliner that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on a stormy night in June 2009.

“If we do not find it within the 30 days, it brings in other issues of how to locate it — as the French airline had to take two years. That comes into a different realm of search and rescue,” Hishammuddin said.

Studying satellites

There have been many false leads and no confirmed wreckage found from Flight MH370 since it vanished off Malaysia’s east coast less than an hour after taking off.

There has also been criticism of the search operation and investigation, as more than two dozen countries scramble to overcome logistical and diplomatic hurdles.

Investigators piecing together patchy data from military radar and satellites believe that, minutes after its identifying transponder was switched off as it crossed the Gulf of Thailand, the plane turned sharply west, re-crossing the Malay Peninsula and following an established route towards India.

What happened next is unclear, but faint electronic “pings” picked up by one commercial satellite suggest the aircraft flew on for at least six hours.

A source with direct knowledge of the situation said that information gleaned from the pings had been passed to investigators within a few days, but it took Malaysia more than a week to narrow the search area to two large arcs — one reaching south to near where the potential debris was spotted, and a second crossing to the north into China and central Asia. — Reuters