Mixed Messages as Malaysia Airlines Search Continues
The ongoing search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing on March 8, continues on Sunday, as Australian authorities announced that the debris found floating in the Indian Ocean may not be related to the mystery flight.
On Friday, international search teams announced that hundreds of objects had been found off the Australian coast, presumably from the missing Boeing 777. The floating objects, ranging from 6.5 feet to 50 feet in size, were discovered scattered over an area roughly 1,680 miles south-west of the Australian city of Perth.
An extensive search over the weekend was launched to locate and determine the exact source of the objects, But on Saturday night and Sunday morning, the search grew increasingly dismal, as search teams announced that the debris and the flight are not necessarily connected.
"Unfortunately, we didn't find anything of significance out there," flight captain Russell Adams told CNN after returning to Perth.
Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short, of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, said his country's P-3K2 Orion aircraft had sighted 70 pieces of debris on Saturday, but most weren't of interest to the search.
"Until items are picked up by a ship and assessed by expert investigators, no conclusions as to their origin can be made," he told the Wall Street Journal.
Officials warned earlier in the search 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.
To make things worse, the plane's pinger is expected to run out of power within the next two weeks, leaving behind an even greater challenge to search an area covering 469,407 square nautical miles and extending more than 13,000 feet deep.
Despite the news, authorities have announced that the search will continue, after expected bad weather off the Australian coast passes in the next day or so. Meanwhile, families are frustrated at what they say are mixed messages about the flight's fate.
Last week, Malaysian ministers announced to grieving families that "all lives were lost" on the missing flight, and stated a determination to find out why the plane, as they said, crashed into the Indian Ocean.
But Chinese and Malaysian families have remained lampooned in their hotels despite the revelation, CNN found, with Malaysia Airlines staff allegedly not allowing Chinese families to leave.
The outcry has intensified as Malaysian officials backtracked somewhat on their claim later in the week, switching from the "plane is lost" theory to assurances that there may be survivors.
"Even hoping against hope, no matter how remote, of course, we are praying and we will continue our search for the possible survivors," said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transportation minister.
"More than that, I told the families I cannot give them false hope. The best we can do is pray and that we must be sensitive to them that, as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes."
The news is the latest in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 case, which has been the subject of international attention after it disappeared without a trace earlier this month.
A range of theories as to its fate have emerged – from hijacking to crashing to being diverted for use in a terror attack, possibly against Israel. Later theories have become even wilder, ranging from an onboard fire to a suicide mission.