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Norwegian ship to continue search for Malaysia plane despite nightfall

Source: Reuters - Thu, 20 Mar 2014 14:58 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds quotes from Hoegh Autoliners news conference)

OSLO, March 20 (Reuters) - The owner of a Norwegian car carrier said it planned to search through the night for two large objects sighted off Australia that could be debris from a missing Malaysian jetliner, despite the official search being suspended because it was too dark.

The Hoegh St. Petersburg was the first ship to arrive in the area where the two objects were spotted by satellite four days ago in one of the remotest parts of the globe, around 2,500 km (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth.

"We will continue searching during the night at reduced speed and with all spotlights available, and we will increase the speed again when the light comes back (around 2300 GMT)," Ingar Skiaker, Chief Executive of Hoegh Autoliners, told a news conference in Oslo.

"We have not had any report of any finds, but if or when they find something... the captain will report to the Australian authorities first," he said.

Hoegh Autoliners said as far as they knew theirs was still the only ship in the area in the southern Indian Ocean, with other ships on their way and expected to arrive tomorrow.

Two Royal Australia Air Force AP-3C Orions, a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon and a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion are also involved in the search.

A Royal Australian Navy ship equipped to recover any objects was en route and China's icebreaker for Antarctic research, Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, was to set off from Perth, state news agency Xinhua cited maritime authorities as saying.

The Hoegh St. Petersburg would stay to help in the search for as long as it was needed, a company spokesman said.

"We are thinking about those who are waiting for news. We are thinking of the relatives," Skiaker said.

The car carrier was on its way from Madagascar to Melbourne when it got a request from Australian authorities to assist in looking for the objects.

The larger object measured up to 24 metres (79 ft) long and appeared to be floating on water several thousand metres deep, Australian officials said. The second object was about 5 metres (16 feet) long.

The satellite images, provided by U.S. company DigitalGlobe DGI.N, were taken on March 16, meaning that the possible debris could by now have drifted far from the original site.

No confirmed wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been found since it vanished from air traffic control screens off Malaysia's east coast early on March 8, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board. (Reporting by Ole Petter Skonnord and Camilla Knudsen; Writing by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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