Eleven aircraft and five ships began another round of search efforts for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, as searchers aim to cover roughly 30,115 square miles in their hunt for the missing plane.
Several search teams were scheduled to leave later in the day, but weather in the search area was forecast to worsen as the day went on, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
Earlier in the day, Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said new satellite images show a debris field of 122 objects floating in the Indian Ocean that could be connected to the missing plane. He said the images were taken on Sunday, March 23, about 1,600 miles off the coast of Perth, Australia, and relayed by the France-based Airbus Defense and Space. Authorities received the images Tuesday.
Hishammuddin said the objects were seen close to where three other satellites previously detected objects. The newly-spotted objects vary in size, with the largest about 75 feet in length, Hishammuddin said. Some objects appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid debris.
"This is another new lead that will help direct the search operation,” he said.
How Malaysia Flight 370 Could Shape Flight-Tracking Technology
Six countries were participating in the search -- Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, China and South Korea.
Australia's Maritime Safety Authority said search crews spotted three objects earlier today, including a blue object and two objects that are likely rope. The items were not relocated on further passes, and the items weren't distinctive of the missing plane, AMSA said.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott expressed hope that search crews would recover an object connected to the doomed plane, which was carrying 239 people when it went missing March 8.
“A considerable amount of debris has been sighted in the area where the flight was last recorded,” he told Australian parliament today. “Bad weather and inaccessibility have, so far, prevented any of it being recovered. But we are confident that some will be.”
Malaysia announced earlier this week that a mathematical analysis of the final known satellite signals from the plane had proved beyond doubt it gone down in the sea, taking the lives of all those on board.
Despite the new data, the search zone remained huge -- an area estimated at 622,000 square miles, about the size of Alaska.
In Beijing, some families held out a glimmer of hope their loved ones might somehow have survived. About two-thirds of the missing were Chinese, and their relatives have lashed out at Malaysia for essentially declaring their family members dead without any physical evidence of the plane's remains. Many also believed that the Malaysian officials had not been transparent or swift in communicating information with them about the status of the search.
Wang Chunjiang, whose brother was on the plane, said he felt "very conflicted."
"We want to know the truth, but we are afraid the debris of the plane should be found," he said while waiting at a hotel near the Beijing airport for a meeting with Malaysian officials. "If they find debris, then our last hope would be dashed. We will not have even the slightest hope."
In China's capital a day earlier, nearly 100 relatives and their supporters marched to the Malaysian embassy, where they threw plastic water bottles, tried to rush the gate and shouted, "Tell the truth! Return our relatives!"
In a statement of support for the families, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered a special envoy to Kuala Lumpur to deal with the case, and Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng told Malaysia's ambassador that China wanted to know exactly what led to the announcement that the plane had been lost, a statement on the ministry's website said.
The plane's bizarre disappearance March 8 shortly after it took off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing has proven to be one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.