Missing MH370: Latest update from Malaysia's Acting Minister of Transport

Malaysia's Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Malaysia's Minister of Defence and Acting Minister of Transport, Mr Hishammuddin Hussein, gave a briefing at 5.30pm Monday, to update on the search for the missing MH370 aircraft.

Here is the full statement:

The search for MH370 continues. Over the past few days, new leads from satellite data have focused our search and rescue operations in the southern corridor. Our partners continue to deploy assets to assist us, as we work to narrow the search areas.

Operational update

Yesterday, 18,500 square nautical miles were searched in the Australian search area.

Two orange objects approximately one metre in length and one white coloured drum were sighted by search aircraft, but remain unidentified and have not been conclusively linked to MH370.

HMAS Success detected two radar targets within the search area, but could not locate the targets on further investigation of the area.

Earlier today, a Chinese search plane reportedly sighted objects in the Australian search area. These objects are not in the vicinity of those which were identified by the Australian authorities last week.

A few minutes ago the Prime Minister received a call from the Prime Minister of Australia, who informed him that an Australian search aircraft had located two objects in the Australian search area, one circular and one rectangular.

HMAS Success is in the vicinity and it is possible that the objects could be received within the next few hours, or by tomorrow morning at the latest.

Three search areas, totalling approximately 20,000 square nautical miles, have been identified for operations today. RCC Australia anticipates that 10 aircraft will be used.

HMAS Success remains the only vessel in the search area. A number of Chinese vessels are expected to commence arriving within the search area on 25th March.

3 aircraft - 2 from Japan and 1 from the UAE - have already departed from Subang today and are en route to the southern corridor.

6 Malaysian ships, with 3 ship-borne helicopters, are now in northern part of the southern corridor. 10 Chinese ships are in the southern corridor, carrying out search and rescue operations. HMS Echo is currently refuelling in the Maldives and will be sailing to the southern corridor this evening.

In the northern corridor, Turkmenistan have confirmed they have not had any sightings of MH370 on their radar. Each piece of information we receive from our partners in the northern corridor helps us to continuously narrow the corridor.

Satellite images

New leads into MH370's possible location have come from satellite data. This was one of the four tools we identified that could narrow the search area, along with surveillance radar data, increasing surface and air assets, and bringing in more technical experts.

The most recent images were obtained by French satellites, which captured radar images of potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor on 21st March. These images were received by Malaysia on the evening of the 22nd March, and were relayed to RCC Australia on the morning of the 23rd March, as they are leading the search in that particular area of the southern corridor.

This morning we have received a further set of images from French satellites, this time captured by cameras. These images were taken yesterday and have been relayed to RCC Australia.

Family briefings

Yesterday, the high-level team met with families in Beijing for more than eight hours.

The families asked many questions, and made detailed requests for radar readings and other data. Some of these questions could not be answered, and some of the data they requested was still being held by the investigation, as is standard procedure in investigations of this sort.

After meeting with the families for a total of more than twelve hours, and taking hundreds of questions, the high-level team has returned to Kuala Lumpur to discuss the matters raised at the meetings. They will return to Beijing tomorrow to continue.

The briefings in Kuala Lumpur over the last two days went smoothly, and the families responded as positively as could be expected, with the families engaging with representatives from the relevant authorities.

It has always been our intention to keep the families as fully informed as possible. We continue to do so.

Specific questions

There are a few specific questions I would like to respond to.

On the police investigation, we can confirm that the police have interviewed more than a hundred people, including families of both the pilot and co-pilot.

As far as the transcript is concerned, the technical committee is considering releasing it and we will keep you informed about the decision.

The Inspector General of the Police will attend tomorrow's press conference to answer further questions on the investigation.

We can also confirm that MH370 was carrying wooden pallets. However, there is as yet no evidence that these are related to the wooden pallets reportedly sighted in the Australian search area.

Concluding remarks

The search for MH370 has taken us halfway around the world. At the moment there are new leads, but nothing conclusive. Our thoughts continue to be with the families who are still waiting for news. In the meantime, we are grateful for the on-going co-operation shown by our partners in this multinational search.

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