Twenty-nine Chinese family members, seeking answers from Malaysia’s government as to what happened to their loved ones, arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, said Malaysia Airlines commercial director Hugh Dunleavy. Two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard Flight 370 were Chinese, and their relatives have expressed deep frustration with Malaysian authorities since the plane went missing.
It will still take three-to-four days for the Australian Navy ship, the Ocean Shield, to reach the search zone an area roughly the size of Poland about 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) to the west of Australia.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which oversees the search, said the ship will be equipped with a black box detector the U.S. Navy’s Towed Pinger Locator and an unmanned underwater vehicle, as well as other acoustic detection equipment.
Ships from China and Australia on Saturday scooped up items described only as “objects from the ocean”, but none were “confirmed to be related” to Flight 370, AMSA said.
A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane spotted three floating objects, including two bearing colours of the missing jet, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said, a day after several planes and ships combing the newly targeted area, which is closer to Australia than a previous search zone, saw several other objects.
The three objects spotted by the Chinese plane were white, red and orange, the Xinhua report said. The missing Boeing 777’s exterior was red, white, blue and gray.
Investigators have been puzzled over what happened to Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with speculation ranging from equipment failure and a botched hijacking to terrorism or an act by one of the pilots.
In Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that former Australian defence chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, will lead a new centre in Perth to coordinate the international search effort.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre will work with key Australian government, state and international members, and provide a single contact point for families, including travel assistance and visa services, accommodation, interpreter services and counselling.
Newly analyzed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising expectations that searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean. That would narrow the hunt for the wreckage and the plane’s black boxes, which should contain clues to what caused the plane to be so far off-course.
The change came after analysts determined that the Boeing 777 may have been travelling faster than earlier estimates and would therefore have run out of fuel sooner.The new search area is closer to Perth than the previous one, with a flying time of 2-1/2 hours each way, allowing for five hours of search.
AMSA said 10 planes will join the search on Sunday. The first aircraft to leave the Perth air force base, a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76, was already over the area.
The Australian Navy supply ship HMAS Success, which is to store any wreckage found, and three Chinese ships reached the search area on Saturday. Six more ships will arrive on Sunday, AMSA said.
Dunleavy, the Malaysia Airlines’ director, said in Beijing the Chinese relatives flew to Kuala Lumpur on Sunday morning.
Much of the sea floor in the area is about 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) below the surface, but depths may reach up to 6,000 metres (19,685 feet).