Last Updated 23 | 03 | 2014 at 12:36

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French Satellite Spots Possible 'Debris'

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A French satellite has spotted potential objects floating in the sea in the southern search corridor of the Indian Ocean.

The images were immediately relayed to the rescue co-ordination centre in Australia, where civilian and military aircraft have been carrying out sweeps of the area looking for signs of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. It is the third possible sighting of debris in the area. On Saturday, the Chinese government released a satellite image showing a large floating object.

That object, measuring 74ft (22.5m) by 43ft (13m), was photographed on Tuesday just 75 miles from where two other potential pieces of debris were spotted by an Australian satellite. China has said further analysis is needed to determine if this is related to the plane. A statement from Malaysia's acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said: "This morning, Malaysia received new satellite images from the French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor.

"Malaysia immediately relayed these images to the Australian rescue co-ordination centre.

"Australia, China and France have now released satellite images that show potential objects, which may be related to MH370, in the vicinity of the southern corridor.

"All this information has been forwarded to Australia, as the lead country in the area of concern."

Eight aircraft, based at an air base north of Perth in Australia, were involved in a fruitless fourth day of searching for the debris on Sunday in a zone around 1,550 miles southwest of the coast..

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had earlier spoke of the "increasing hope" of finding out what happened to MH370. He said: "It's still too early to be definite, but 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."

Michael Barton, of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, said: "Today's search is about a visual search, a complete change of emphasis from earlier searching using radar.

"So we're into a more defined area based on the satellite's imagery."

The authority said the search operation had been split into two areas, with a total of eight aircraft involved in an operation that covers 22,800 sq miles (59,000 sq km).

The wing of a Boeing 777-200ER is approximately 88ft (27m) long and 45ft (14m) wide at its base, according to estimates taken from scale drawings.

The fuselage is 208ft (63.7m) long and 20ft (6.2m) wide. Malaysian authorities held a six-hour briefing in Beijing with relatives of passengers on board the flight. Bad weather has threatened the operation after a cyclone warning was declared for Tropical Cyclone Gillian, which is forecast to move into the southern search corridor. A cold front is also predicted to move through the region later on Sunday, which could bring clouds and wind.

The Malaysia Airline flight disappeared from air traffic control screens in the early hours of March 8 with 239 people on board. Investigators believe it was deliberately diverted by someone on board shortly after leaving Malaysian air space.

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