Australia still analysing French images, not yet shifted MH370 search area: AMSA

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian authorities said on Monday they are still examining French radar images showing potential floating debris and have not yet shifted the search for a missing Malaysian jetliner in the southern Indian Ocean further north to look for the objects.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said its search area continued to be defined by a US satellite image of two floating objects to frame a search area some 2,500 km south-west of Perth.

The AMSA is leading the international search along a southern arc for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board.

The US imagery was bolstered by a Chinese satellite image showing potential debris in the same region, centering the search for wreckage of the Boeing 777 jetliner south of the equator.

The French images, however, were taken some 850 km north of the current search area.

"We only recently got this information and we are still examining it," an AMSA spokeswoman told Reuters by telephone, declining to say when the authority had received the images.

She also said she had no further information about how they were discovered.

Malaysian authorities reported receiving the images on Sunday and passing them on to Australia.

Maps released by the AMSA on Monday show two neighbouring search areas in the southern Indian Ocean, contradicting earlier comments by Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss that the search area had been expanded north to take into account the French sighting.

"We are taking it into account but at this stage we are still focused on the same search area," the AMSA spokeswoman said.

"We are taking every bit of information seriously and examining it and cross-referencing it with every other bit of information."

Two Chinese military aircraft, two Australian P3 Orions and two ultra-long range civilian jets are en route to the search site. Another ultra-long range jet, a US Navy P8 Poseidon and two Japanese P3 Orions are due to depart later on Monday.

Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a scheduled flight to Beijing.