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Chinese search plane spots 'objects' in hunt for Flight MH370

Perth/Beijing, Mar 24 (PTI): A Chinese surveillance plane on Monday spotted “suspicious” objects in the southern Indian Ocean as the search for the Malaysian airliner missing since March 8 intensified.

The “white and square” objects were spotted by crew of a Chinese Ilyushin-76 plane searching for the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 off Australia. Flight MH 370 went missing on March 8 with 239 people on board.

The search team on board the Il-76 saw “two relatively big floating objects with many white smaller ones scattered within a radius of several kilometers”, reported state-run Xinhua news agency.

”The crew has reported the coordinates - 95.1113 degrees east and 42.5453 south - to the Australian command centre as well as Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, which is en route to the sea area,” the report said.

According to Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), 10 aircraft were involved in Monday's search for the MH370, which entered its fifth day.

”Two Chinese military aircraft departed about 8.45am and 9.20am respectively. A RAAF P3 Orion departed for the search area just after 9am (local time),” it said in a statement.

Two ultra-long range civil jets, a second RAAF P3 Orion, a third ultra-long range jet, a US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft, two Japanese P3 Orion aircraft were also part of the search operations.

Meanwhile, the US Navy has ordered the Pacific Fleet to move one of its high-tech black box locators into the region where search for the missing jet is underway.

The TPL-25 system is able to locate black boxes of downed aircraft “down to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet (6 km) anywhere in the world”, it said in a statement.

However, a tropical cyclone approaching towards the search zone is likely to impede the hunt today.

On Sunday, France provided new satellite images of possible debris of the airliner while in another possible lead, Australia said it has spotted a wooden cargo pallet in the southern Indian Ocean, expressing “increasing hope” of a breakthrough in locating the jet.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said: ”We're just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts.

The hunt for jet, which disappeared from radar screens an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board, was intensified with India, China and Japan deploying surveillance aircraft on Sunday.