The Australian-led search for a missing Malaysia Airlines flight resumed at first light after a Norwegian merchant ship arrived in the target area off the West Australian coast.
Searchers are looking for a large piece of debris and other smaller objects spotted in the Indian Ocean about 2500 kilometres south west of Perth and which showed up on satellite imaging.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guinea on Thursday night it was the most ‘‘serious’’ lead so far in the search for flight MH370 which disappeared with 239 people on board almost two weeks ago.
‘‘We don’t know what that satellite saw until we get much closer look at it, but this is the most tangible clue in what’s been an utterly baffling mystery,’’ Mr Abbott said.Defence Minister David Johnston was cautious of raising any false hopes.
‘‘We are several days away from having an idea of the credibility and veracity of this (satellite) report,’’ Senator Johnston told ABC TV.
The images of the debris were captured on March 16 and are likely to have moved since then, so searchers are trying to cover an area of more than 23,000 square kilometres.
Two RAFF P-3C Orions, a US Navy P8 Poseidon, and a Royal New Zealand Air ForceP-3K2 Orion were utilised, along with an RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft went to the area on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian ship St. Petersburg reached the area late on Thursday and is expected to take part in the search on Friday when the light is better.
The vehicle carrier was on its way from Port Louis in Mauritius to Melbourne.
The Australian Navy ship HMAS Success is also en route to aid in the search.
Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss says the images were taken on March 16 and the objects would have moved with the tides.
That’s making the search area ‘‘quite broad’’, while weather conditions in the area have been generally unfavourable.
The search effort can only be done during daylight hours, adding difficulties.
‘‘There have been some marker buoys dropped in the location to help ... pinpoint the search area,’’ Mr Truss told ABC radio on Friday.
Australia has discussed with other countries getting more resources to the search effort, but it will take ‘‘a very long time’’ to get those deployed.
‘‘We need to use the resources we have in the intermediate period,’’ Mr Truss said.