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March 21, 2014

'Extraordinary riddle' of lost jet now 2 weeks old

PERTH, Australia — Aircraft and ships from China headed to the desolate southern Indian Ocean to join the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, now lost for two full weeks, and Australia promised its best efforts to resolve "an extraordinary riddle."

A satellite spotted two large objects in the area earlier this week, raising hopes of finding the Boeing 777 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board. Surveillance planes scoured the region — about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of P'Extraordinary riddle' of lost jet now 2 weeks old erth —for a second day on Friday but came back empty-handed after a 10-hour mission.

Australian officials pledged to continue the effort. even as they tried to tamp down expectations.

"It's about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the Earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at a news conference in Papua New Guinea.

"We owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones of the almost 240 people on Flight MH370 to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle," he added.

Two Chinese aircraft are expected to arrive in Perth on Saturday to join the search, and two Japanese aircraft will arrive Sunday. A small flotilla of ships from China is still several days away.

Abbott spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, describing him as "devastated." The passengers included 154 Chinese.

In Kuala Lumpur, where the plane took off for Beijing, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein thanked the more than two dozen countries involved in the overall search that stretches from Kazakhstan in Central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean. He called the whole process "a long haul."

The search area indicated by the satellite images in the southern Indian Ocean is a four-hour round-trip flight from western Australia, leaving planes with only enough fuel to search for about two hours. The images were taken March 16, but the search in the area did not start until Thursday because it took time to analyze them.

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