March 20, 2014 10:13:00 AM
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Military search planes flew over a remote part of the Indian Ocean today hunting for debris in "probably the best lead" so far in finding the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, officials said.
The four planes were checking to see if two large objects spotted in satellite imagery bobbing in the ocean were debris from Fight 370 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board.
Australian authorities said the first plane to reach the area was unable to locate the debris through rain and clouds, but that other planes would continue the hunt. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said there was limited visibility because of the weather, but did not give details.
One of the objects spotted by satellite imagery was almost 80 feet in length and the other was 15 feet. There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia's southwestern coast, said John Young, manager of the 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.
Young told a news conference in Canberra, Australia's capital, that planes had been sent to the area about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth to check on the objects. He said satellite images "do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sighted close-up."
News that possible plane parts had been found marked a new phase in the emotional roller coaster for distraught relatives of the passengers, who have criticized Malaysia harshly 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 find could mean the plane plunged into the ocean.
"If it turns out that it is truly MH370 then we will accept that fate," said Selamat Bin Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger on the jet, which carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals.
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