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Malaysia: French satellite images may show debris

New satellite images brought new hope Sunday that the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 would soon be solved, but the day’s search effort wrapped up with “no sightings of significance,” authorities said.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said it received the images from “French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor.” The images are from the southern Indian Ocean, where the hunt continues for the plane, which vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard.

A Malaysian official involved in the search mission said the French data consisted of radar echoes captured Friday and converted into fuzzy images. One of the objects was estimated to be about 70 feet long and 40 feet wide.

But the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is leading the search effort, said eight aircraft and one ship on Sunday covered 23,000 square miles across two search areas without success.

Two military planes from China have arrived in Perth, and AMSA said it would join the search on Monday. They join Australian, New Zealand and U.S. aircraft. Japanese planes are also expected soon.

The news of the French image comes a day after China released a satellite image captured Tuesday depicting an object about the size of the one in the French data, located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects a week ago.

The search areas Sunday were determined by drift modeling based on the Chinese satellite imagery, AMSA said.

On Saturday, an aircraft aiding in the hunt for the missing jet did find some small objects in the search area, including a wooden pallet, the 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. A merchant ship also was sent to try to identify the material.

It is not immediately known whether any pallets were used on Flight 370, and AMSA spokesman Sam Cardwell said a cargo manifest has been requested.

Despite the frustrating lack of answers, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared 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 Flight 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.”

Contributing: Associated Press

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