Chinese ships are scouring a new search area of the Indian Ocean in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

The two vessels are trying to find and retrieve a number of items spotted by planes on Friday.

Chinese aircraft are also flying over the area, north-east of the previous zone, and have spotted more objects, China's Xinhua news agency says.

The Beijing-bound airliner disappeared on 8 March with 239 people on board.

Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01, and a navy vessel, Jinggangshan, which carries two helicopters, reached the new search area in the past few hours.

inhua said the Jinggangshan was expected to focus on searching for debris, oil slicks and life jackets.

Eight aircraft are also taking part in the operation, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) Amsa said in its latest statement.

Later on Saturday one of them, a Chinese reconnaissance aircraft, spotted three orange, white and red objects floating in the ocean. Some were very small, and officials have cautioned that they may be sea junk.

On Friday five search planes spotted multiple objects of various colours in the same area – about 1,100km (700 miles) north-east of the previous search zone.

Investigators will not know whether the objects are connected to the missing plane until they have been recovered by ships.

Bad weather has hampered the search efforts in recent days.

Saturday's conditions are expected to be favourable initially but to deteriorate later in the day.

Meanwhile Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says he has reassured the families of the missing passengers that the search for any survivors will continue.

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.

"No matter how remote the search, I am always hoping against hope that we will find survivors," Mr Hishammuddin told the latest news conference following a meeting with the families on Saturday.

Burning more fuel

The Australian and Malaysian governments said on Friday the search area had been changed following further analysis of radar data that showed the plane had been travelling faster, thus burning more fuel.

This would reduce the possible distance the aircraft travelled south into the Indian Ocean, officials said.

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.

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.

Various theories about what went wrong have been suggested – including the captain hijacking his own plane.

The speculation was fuelled by reports that files had been deleted on the pilot's home flight simulator.

However Mr Hishimmuddin said investigators who had looked at the equipment had turned up no new information.

"There is nothing sinister from the simulators but of course that will have to be confirmed by the chief of police,'' he said.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 vanished less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

The airliner diverted off course and lost contact with air traffic controllers between Malaysian and Vietnamese air-traffic control areas

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