Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (BBN)- A plane has spotted "objects" in the new area of the Indian Ocean being searched for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Australian officials say.

The sightings would need confirmation by ship, which is not expected until tomorrow, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said.

Earlier it was announced the search would now focus on an area 1,100km (700 miles) north-east of the previous zone.
The Beijing-bound airliner disappeared on 8 March with 239 people on board.

The identity of the objects – spotted by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion – were "to be established", Amsa said, according to the BBC report.

The crew said they had spotted 11 unidentified objects, the BBC's Phil Mercer reports from the western Australian city of Perth.

The images hold out the prospect of up-to-date information, as opposed to satellite images which are invariably days out of date by the time they are seen by investigators, our correspondent adds.

Earlier, the Australian and Malaysian governments said the focus on the new search area was based on further analysis of radar data that showed the plane had been travelling faster, thus burning more fuel.

Search efforts had until Friday morning focused on an area some 2,500km (1,550 miles) to the south-west of the Australian city of Perth.

'Still consistent'

Malaysian officials have concluded that, based on satellite data, the missing plane flew into the sea somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. So far no trace of it has been found.

Using satellite images, several nations have identified objects floating in the sea in that search area, but these have not been located and there is no evidence that they are related to the plane.

Acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that the fact that the search area had moved did not discount the earlier satellite images of possible debris further south.

"Because of ocean drift, this new search area could still be consistent with the potential objects identified by various satellite images over the past week," Mr Hishammuddin said.

Vast expanse

Mystery still surrounds the fate of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 which vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

The reason why the airliner veered off course and lost contact with air traffic controllers continues to baffle experts.

The remote and vast expanse of ocean has turned the search into a major challenge.

Some relatives of the flight's 153 Chinese passengers have refused to accept the Malaysian account of events and have accused officials of withholding information.

Earlier, China's state news agency Xinhua said that Chinese insurance firms had begun to offer payouts to the relatives.

On Thursday, Malaysia Airlines took out a full-page condolence advertisement in the New Straits Times, saying: "Our sincerest condolences go out to the loved ones of the 239 passengers, friends and colleagues. Words alone cannot express our enormous sorrow and pain."

BBN/SSR/SI-28Mar14-6:30 pm (BST)