Chinese ships convene for MH370 search, Australian PM applauds assistance

From: Xinhua Updated: 2014-03-31 09:14
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ABOARD JINGGANGSHAN/PERTH, March 30 (Xinhua) -- A total of seven Chinese ships convened on Sunday in waters west of Australia's Perth to coordinate their search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

The Chinese ships are tasked with a rectangle-shaped search area located at about 26.34 degrees south latitude and 91.104 degrees east longitude, according to a Xinhua correspondent aboard one of the vessels, the Jinggangshan.

Other ships gathered include transport dock Kunlunshan, supply ship Qiandaohu, missile destroyer Haikou, which will be responsible for the search in the southern part of the newly-designated area, while Haixun 01, Nanhaijiu 115 and Donghaijiu 101 will search in the northern patch, Xinhua was told.

Also on Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott lauded China's assistance to Canberra in the search for the missing jetliner.

"As we speak, there's intense cooperation happening between the Royal Australian Navy and ships of the Chinese navy, between the Royal Australian Air Force and the aircraft of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, in the search for knowledge and insight into what happened to MH370," he told a crowd at an Australia-China business event.

Abbott also hailed search efforts made by other sides, saying, "It's good to see so many countries working together for our humanity."

A total of 10 planes and eight ships from various countries were involved in Sunday's search in an area in the southern Indian Ocean about 1,850 km west of Perth, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Australian warship Ocean Shield, which is loaded with advanced U.S. black box detector, will leave Perth on Monday to smell traces of the mysteriously vanished plane.

The MH370 flight has been out of anyone's sight since March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The battery on black box pingers attached to black boxes are certified to last 30 days.

Earlier in the day, Abbott announced that former Defense Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston had been named to lead a new Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) based in Perth to coordinate the government's support for the search operation.

Abbott said Houston was "an individual of enormous experience and great skill who has already served his country with distinction."

The new JACC would ensure strong liaison with key international stakeholders, including the families, friends and international media.

It would also provide a single contact point for families to gain up-to-date information and travel assistance including visa services, accommodation advice, interpreter services and counseling, Abbott said in a statement.

According to AMSA, vessels scouring the southern Indian Ocean have managed to retrieve objects from the water for the first time, but they could not be confirmed as aircraft debris.

A number of objects were retrieved by Australian navy ship HMAS Success and Chinese vessel Haixun 01 on Saturday, AMSA said in a statement.

"The objects have been examined on the ships and are not believed to be related to MH370. The objects have been described as fishing equipment and other flotsam," the statement said.

Sunday's search continued to focus on an area of about 319,000 square km based on refined analysis of satellite and radar data by international air crash investigators.

The search would resume Monday subject to weather conditions, AMSA said.

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