20 MARCH 2014, 5:30PM
1 Australian satellite images at 10:00 this morning, the Prime Minister received a call from the Prime Minister of Australia, informing him that ‘two possible objects related to the search’ for MH370 had been identified in the Southern Indian Ocean. The Australian authorities in Kuala Lumpur have also briefed me on the situation, and the Australian Foreign Minister has spoken to the Foreign Minister of Malaysia. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) continues co-ordinating the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft within Australia’s search and rescue area, with assistance from the Australian Defence Force, the New Zealand Air Force, and the US Navy. AMSA’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) Australia has received satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search for MH370.
RCC Australia received an expert assessment of commercial satellite imagery today. The images were captured by satellite. They may not be related to the aircraft. The assessment of these images was provided by the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation as a possible indication of debris southwest of Perth. As a result of this information, four aircraft have been re-orientated to an area 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth. A Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft arrived in the area at about 10:50AM. Another 3 aircraft have been tasked by RCC Australia to the area, including a second RAAF Orion, a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion, and a US Navy P-8 Poseidon. The Poseidon was expected to arrive early this afternoon. The second RAAF Orion was expected to depart RAAF Base Pearce, Perth, mid-afternoon. The New Zealand Orion was due to depart this afternoon.
An RAAF C-130 Hercules aircraft has been tasked by RCC Australia to drop datum marker buoys to assist in drift modelling. They will provide an on-going reference point if the task of relocating the objects becomes protracted. A merchant ship that responded to a shipping broadcast issued by RCC Australia on Monday was also expected to arrive in the area this afternoon. The Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Success is en route to the area but is some days away. The ship is well equipped to recover any objects located and proven to be from MH370. Every effort is being made to locate the objects seen in the satellite imagery. It must be stressed that these sightings, while credible, are still to be confirmed. Assets deployed. The search for MH370 is a multinational effort. I will now give you an update on the assets which have been deployed.
During the course of this operation, the Chief of the Defence Force has spoken to his counterparts from countries including:
- New Zealand
All were very supportive, and all offered their assistance. As the focus of the search has moved from the South China Sea and Straits of Malacca to the northern and southern corridors, our international partners have continued to provide whatever support they can. A number of assets have been deployed at different phases of the search and rescue operation. Currently, there are 18 ships, 29 aircraft and 6 ship-borne helicopters deployed along the northern and southern corridors, as follows:
Aircraft In the northern corridor, there are 4 aircraft:
- 2 from Malaysia
- 1 from Japan
- 1 from the US.
In the southern corridor, there are 25 aircraft:
- 2 from Malaysia
- 5 from Australia
- 3 from China
- 4 from Indonesia
- 2 from India
- 4 from Japan
- 1 from New Zealand
- 2 from South Korea
- 1 from the UAE
- 1 from the USA.
All 18 ships are in the southern corridor:
- 6 from Malaysia
- 1 from Australia
- 5 from China
- 6 from Indonesia.
This deployment includes 6 helicopters:
- 3 from Malaysia
- 3 from China.
Until we are certain that we have located MH370, search and rescue operations will continue in both corridors. I can confirm that Malaysia is sending 2 aircraft to Kazakhstan, and the UK is planning to send 1 ship to the southern corridor. In addition to the assets I just listed above, a number of countries in the northern corridor are carrying out search and rescue operations within their own territory:
- China is using every means possible, including 21 satellites, to search the area within its borders, and is ready to send more ships and aircraft wherever they are needed.
- In Cambodia, 4 helicopters are conducting search operations within Cambodian territory.
- The Laos Air Force is carrying out search operations within Laos.
- Singapore are using their International Information Fusion Centre, where a Malaysian representative is stationed, to notify mariners and help with the search.
- The Thai military are conducting search operations in the northern part of Thailand with all available aircraft.
- And Vietnam are conducting search operations within their territory using an unspecified number of aircraft.
Together this represents a significant international force deployment. I am thankful for the co-operation of our partners as we continue to focus on finding MH370. Family care The high-level team I announced yesterday is leaving for Beijing this evening I would also like to confirm that representatives from the Malaysian government spoke to the families who were present here yesterday. In addition, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China, and the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, will lead a briefing today for the Chinese families who are here in Kuala Lumpur Also in attendance will be the Department of Civil Aviation, the Armed Forces, the Royal Malaysia Police, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and MAS. A similar briefing will also be held for the other families.
Concluding remarks. For families around the world, the one piece of information they want most is the information we just don’t have: the location of MH370. Our primary focus has always been to find the aircraft. And with every passing day, our efforts have intensified. Yesterday I said that we wanted to reduce the area of the search. We now have a credible lead. There remains much work to be done to deploy the assets. This work will continue overnight.