The international search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 resumed Sunday morning, with searchers' hopes buoyed by China's satellite images of debris in the southern Indian Ocean that could provide a clue to the mysterious disappearance.
A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon, grounded for two days to allow its crew to rest, is rejoining the hunt for signs of the missing airliner, CNN reports
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was hopeful searchers would be able to solve the mystery soon.
"It's still too early to be definite, but obviously, we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope, no more than hope, no more than hope, that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft," Abbott said, according to NBC News.
Eight planes were involved in the search over the Indian Ocean on Sunday, a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said. That is the largest number of planes used in the hunt so far.
"The more aircraft we have, the more ships we have, the more confident we are of recovering whatever material is down there and obviously, before we can be too specific about what it might be, we do actually need to recover some of this material," Abbott said.
The renewed hope is fueled by China's revelation Saturday that it had a new satellite image of what could be wreckage from a missing Malaysian airliner, as more planes and ships headed to join an international search operation scouring some of the remotest seas on Earth.
The development rekindles hopes of a breakthrough in the mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, which entered its third week, with still no confirmed trace found of the Boeing 777 or the 239 people on board.
China said the object was 74 feet long 43 feet wide, and spotted around 75 miles "south by west" of potential debris reported by Australia off its west coast in the forbidding waters of the southern Indian Ocean.
The image was captured by the high-definition Earth observation satellite "Gaofen-1" early on March 18, two days after the Australian satellite picture was taken, China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said on its website.
Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens early on March 8, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a scheduled flight to Beijing.
Investigators believe someone on board shut off the plane's communications systems, and partial military radar tracking showed it turning west and re-crossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.
That has led them to focus on hijacking or sabotage, but they have not ruled out technical problems.
Since Australia announced the first image of what could be parts of the aircraft on Thursday, the international search for the plane has focused on an expanse of ocean more than 1,200 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said one of its aircraft reported sighting a number of "small objects" with the naked eye, including a wooden pallet, within a radius of five km.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft took a closer look but only reported seeing clumps of seaweed. It dropped a marker buoy to track the movement.
"A merchant ship in the area has been tasked to relocate and seek to identify the material," AMSA said in a statement.
The search area experienced good weather conditions on Saturday with visibility of around 10 kilometers and moderate seas.
Australia, which is coordinating the rescue, has cautioned the objects in the satellite image might be a lost shipping container or other debris, and may have sunk since the picture was taken.
The area is known for rough seas and strong currents, and Malaysia's acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein said a cyclone warning had been declared for Christmas Island, far to the north.
"There are vessels heading in that direction. They may have to go through the cyclone," he said.
Where the missing plane went after it flew out of range of Malaysia's military radar off the country's northwest coast has been one of the most puzzling aspects of what has quickly become perhaps the biggest mystery in modern aviation history.
Electronic "pings" detected by a commercial satellite suggested it flew for another six hours or so, but could do no better than place its final signal on one of two vast arcs: a northern corridor from Laos to the Caspian Sea, and a southern one stretching from Indonesia down to the part of the Indian Ocean that has become the focal point of the search.
Malaysia has said the search will continue in both corridors until confirmed debris is found.
Hishammuddin said that, in response to a formal diplomatic request from Malaysia, China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan had all said, based on preliminary analysis, that there have been no sightings of the aircraft on their radar.
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