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Australia searches ocean site for possible plane debris

CANBERRA -- Surveillance aircraft scoured a remote and stormy section of the Indian Ocean on Thursday for a pair of floating objects that Australia and Malaysia guardedly called a “credible” lead in the 12-day-old hunt for a missing passenger jet.

Australia said the objects — one was estimated at 24 meters across — were captured in satellite imagery, raising hopes of a breakthrough in the Malaysian plane's mysterious disappearance as relatives of the 239 people aboard braced for another emotional roller-coaster.

“We now have a credible lead,” Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said during Malaysia's daily briefing on the crisis.

“There remains much work to be done to deploy the assets. This work will continue overnight.”

Four search aircraft were dispatched from Australia — which has taken charge of the search in the southern Indian Ocean — to the area about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth where the grainy images were snapped.

Initial feedback was inconclusive — the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said one aircraft was unable to locate the objects in cloudy, rainy conditions and “limited visibility.”

It said other aircraft continued searching and a Norwegian merchant ship reached the site as daylight waned.

Clearly wary of raising hopes following a series of past false leads, Hishammuddin warned of a long night of anticipation ahead, saying the find “requires us overnight to verify and corroborate it.”

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These handout images taken by satellite image provider DigitalGlobe on Sunday, March 16 and released on Thursday, March 20 by the Australian Government's Department of Defense via the Australian Maritime Safety Authority show objects in the Indian Ocean that may be from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (AFP)



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