PERTH, Australia- Searchers scoured a new area of the Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Saturday hoping to salvage possible debris from the doomed jet after several hopeful sightings.
But despite having access to considerable assets, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the search teams faced a formidable task given the distances involved.
“We should not underestimate the difficulty of this work, it is an extraordinarily remote location,” he told reporters Saturday.
“We are trying to find small bits of wreckage in a vast ocean. While we’re throwing everything we have at it, the task goes on.”
Planes attached to the multinational operation spotted “multiple objects” floating in the water on Friday after the focus of the search moved to a new zone on the strength of fresh data indicating the plane was flying faster than first thought before it disappeared on March 8.
Authorities stressed that the items sighted could not be verified as coming from MH370 until they were physically examined and ships from China and Australia have been tasked with finding them.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said a Chinese ship, the Haixun 01 began attempting to relocate the objects at first light Saturday.
It was joined by a navy vessel Jinggangshan, which carries two helicopters, China’s official state news agency Xinhua said.
AMSA expects six ships to be in place by the end of the day, including the Australian navy’s HMAS Success and a total of five Chinese vessels as they comb an area of roughly the size of Norway.
The authority said weather conditions on Saturday were good, although they could deteriorate later in the day.
AMSA has 11 military aircraft from six countries — Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States — at its disposal for the search, which is taking place far off Western Australia and about 1,100 kilometres (685 miles) northeast of where initial efforts were focused.
Yet the objects they are trying to find are tiny, with New Zealand Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short saying the items spotted from a New Zealand Orion Friday were mostly rectangular and ranging in size from just 50-100 centimeters (20-40 inches).