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Aviation

Australia PM has 'increasing hope' for finding MH370 as fresh satellite images emerge

Australia's prime minister has said there is "increasing hope" in the hunt to find a missing Malaysian Airlines flight. French satellite images of possible debris from the plane have provided additional leads.

Planes scour southern Indian Ocean

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday that there was new confidence that flight MH370 would be found after "significant developments" to the search effort were made.

"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," he said while on a visit to Papua New Guinea.

International efforts to find the Boeing 777, which disappeared with 239 people aboard on March 8, resumed on Sunday. The hunt for the plane is focused on an area 1,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth, where satellite photos spotted what could be debris from the missing flight.

More satellite images

Malaysia's Transport Ministry said on Sunday that a French satellite had now also spotted possible debris from the plane in the southern Indian Ocean.

It said it had passed on the images showing the objects to the Australian rescue coordination center. They are the third set of images of potential debris to come to light in the past few days.

On Saturday Chinese satellite images showed what could be debris within the search area, and Abbott acknowledged Sunday the new findings were similar to what Australian satellites spotted earlier this week. China said the potential debris was located around 120 kilometers "south by west" of the objects seen by Australia.

"New Chinese satellite imagery does seem to suggest at least one large object down there, consistent with the object that earlier satellite imagery discovered," he said.

Joining the hunt on Sunday for the airliner, which vanished from civilian radar less than an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, were additional aircraft from Japan and India. They add to the six planes already involved in the operation, which is backed by the United States and New Zealand.

Increasing optimism

With search effort resources increasing, Abbott expressed optimism that a breakthrough was on the horizon.

"Obviously the more aircraft we have, the more ships we have, the more confident we are of recovering whatever material is down there," he said.

"And obviously before we can be too specific about what it might be, we do actually need to recover some of this material," Abbott added, praising the "really big international" search effort.

No findings Saturday

An Australian naval vessel arrived to the search zone late Saturday, though the day ended with nothing found despite favorable weather conditions. Merchant ships involved in the operation had been released, said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

"A civil aircraft … reported sighting a number of small objects with the naked eye, including a wooden pallet, within a radius of five kilometers," AMSA said. "AMSA has used this information in the development of the search area, taking drift modeling into account."

A flotilla of Chinese ships is expected to arrive in the area in the coming days.

dr/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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