Missing plane families demand apology as search for clues goes on

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Australia’s prime minister has said he is hopeful a clue will emerge soon to narrow the hunt for Flight MH370, as relatives of Chinese passengers on the plane protested in Malaysia to demand that the government apologise for its handling of the search.

So far, even though more ships are scouring the area off western Australia, none of the recovered items has been connected to the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed on March 8 with 239 people on board.

“My understanding from this morning is that there has been no discrete debris associated with the flight,” Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy told reporters yesterday.

In Sydney, prime minister Tony Abbott described the “intensifying search effort” as positive because objects “have been recovered from the ocean”.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said 10 planes took part in the search yesterday, leaving in staggered times from the western city of Perth. Eight ships were on the scene, including the Australian navy supply ship HMAS Success, which is to store any wreckage found.

The ships are trying to locate and identify the objects sighted by aircraft over the past two days.

Mr Leavy, the commander of the search task force, said the operation was made more difficult because the area being combed is in a shipping lane and may be littered with floating objects.

Amsa said there were light showers and low clouds in the area, but not enough to disrupt the search, which is about two-and-a-half hours’ flying time from Perth, allowing the planes five hours to search before they have to return to base.

Among the objects spotted over the last day were three by a Chinese plane that were white, red and orange, according to a report from China’s official Xinhua News Agency. The missing Boeing 777’s exterior was red, white, blue and grey.

In Malaysia, several dozen Chinese relatives of passengers of Flight MH370 demanded that the Malaysian government apologise for its handling of the search for the plane and for the prime minister’s statement saying it crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

Holding up banners that read “We want evidence, truth, dignity” in Chinese, and “Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back” in English, the group staged a protest at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur just hours after flying in from Beijing.

Two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard the plane were Chinese.