Malaysia announced Sunday that France has new satellite images showing possible debris in the southern Indian Ocean, where the hunt continues for a missing Malaysian airliner.
A statement from Malaysia's Ministry of Transport said Malaysia received the images from "French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor." It was one more clue in the as-yet fruitless search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing March 8 with 239 people on board.
The news of the French image comes a day after China released a satellite image captured Tuesday depicting an object 74 feet by 43 feet, located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects last Sunday. The Australian images were released Thursday.
While no large objects were found by searchers Saturday, an aircraft aiding in the hunt for the missing airliner did find some small objects in the search area, including a wooden pallet, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.
Mike Barton, chief of AMSA's rescue coordination center, told reporters in Canberra, Australia, that the wooden pallet was reportedly surrounded by what appeared to be strapping belts of different colors and lengths.
"We went to some of the expert airlines and the use of wooden pallets is quite common in the industry," Barton said. "They're usually packed into another container which is loaded in the belly of the aircraft. … It's a possible lead, but we will need to be very certain that this is a pallet because pallets are used in the shipping industry as well," he said.
A New Zealand Orion P3 plane tried to find it, but failed, Barton said.
"So, we've gone back to that area again today to try and re-find it," he said. A merchant ship also was sent to try to identify the material.
t is not immediately known if any pallets were used on Flight 370 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, but AMSA spokesman Sam Cardwell said a cargo manifest has been requested.
Despite the frustrating lack of answers, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was upbeat.
"Obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope — no more than hope, no more than hope — that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft," Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guinea.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein put a message on his Twitter account Sunday asking those in churches around the country to offer a "prayer please" for the passengers and crew on Fight 370.
More than 300 Malaysian cycling enthusiasts rode their bikes to the Kuala Lumpur airport to remember the people onboard the jet. The cyclists decorated the bikes with small Malaysian flags and stickers that read "Pray for MH370."
Sunday's search involving eight aircraft has been split into two areas within the same proximity covering 22,800 square miles. These areas have been determined by drift modelling and refined based on the Chinese satellite imagery, AMSA said.
Seven planes left a base near Perth, where an intense wind was blowing, for a four-hour journey to the search region, the safety authority said. One more will fly out later. The HMAS Success, an Australian navy supply ship, is also taking part.
Meanwhile, Sunday's search in the southern corridor could be impacted by Cyclone Gillian. The tropical cyclone may bring "very strong winds and rough seas," said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysian defense minister and acting minister of transport.
The storm is expected to further intensify Sunday before weakening into Monday and Tuesday, the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology said.
In general, "conditions in the southern corridor are very challenging," said Hussein, noting deep and varying underwater terrain, along with strong currents.
The search area Saturday covered about 14,000 square miles, roughly 50% larger than the area searched Friday. Because of the distance to and from the area, the P3 Orion aircraft can search for only two hours, but the commercial planes can spend five hours looking, the AMSA said. The area being searched is about 9,800 feet deep, it said.
Warren Truss, who serves as acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is in Papua New Guinea, said a complete search could take a long time.
"It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we're absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile — and that day is not in sight," Truss said from the base near Perth that is serving as a staging area for search aircraft. "If there's something there to be found, I'm confident that this search effort will locate it."
Two military planes from China have arrived in Perth, and the AMSA said they would join the search on Monday. They join Australian, New Zealand and U.S. aircraft. Japanese planes are also expected soon.
Contributing: Associated Press