Kuala Lumpur/Perth: Australian officials say search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane have been suspended for the day due to bad weather.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says all planes that headed for the search area in the southern Indian Ocean earlier on Thursday are now returning to Perth and ships are leaving too.
Earlier in the day, planes flew out of Australia trying to spot 122 objects seen floating in the turbulent Indian Ocean where officials believe the missing passenger jet may have crashed.
Almost two-thirds of the 239 people who died on the flight were from China, and the first search plane in the air was a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft.
In total, 11 planes and five ships are set to scour a search area 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth on Australia’s western coast, but the Australian Maritime Safety Authority cautioned that weather was expected to deteriorate later on Thursday.
Nineteen days into the mystery of Flight 370 that vanished early March 8, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the discovery of the objects that ranged in size from 1 metre (3 feet) to 23 metres (75 feet) offered “the most credible lead that we have”, a top Malaysian official said on Wednesday.
A search on Wednesday for the objects seen by a French satellite was unsuccessful, echoing the frustration of earlier sweeps that failed to zero in on three objects seen by satellites in recent days.
With the search in motion, Malaysian officials again sought to assuage the angry relatives of the flight’s 153 Chinese passengers. But Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also expressed exasperation, pointedly saying Chinese families “must also understand that we in Malaysia also lost our loved ones”, as did “so many other nations”.