Another day of searching ended in disappointment Monday as Australian authorities determined that the latest debris spotted from a plane was unrelated to the Malaysia Airlines jet that vanished more than three weeks ago.
The revelations did little to shake the resolve of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
"If this mystery is solvable, we will solve it,'' Abbott vowed. "But I don't want to underestimate just how difficult it is.''
Flight 370, bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, disappeared from radar screens, air traffic controllers and the world on March 8. Abbott said that "absolutely overwhelming" evidence indicates that the Boeing 777 with 239 people aboard went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
But details of the flight's fate are locked in the so-called black boxes that, along with the plane, its passengers or any of its contents, have yet to be recovered.
The U.S. Navy has provided a black-box detector and an underwater vehicle that could be used to verify the box's location, but searchers are racing the clock. Black box batteries are only designed to last 30 days or so. It will take three to four days for the detector to be shipped into the search zone — and far longer to actually locate the boxes given the massive area involved.
Orange objects spotted Sunday by a search plane hunting for wreckage turned out to be nothing more than fishing equipment, Australian officials said Monday. Australia has been leading the latest search effort, and an undeterred Abbott said his nation will "do whatever we reasonably can" to find the plane.
"We owe it to the families, we owe it to everyone who travels by air," Abbott said. "We owe it to the governments of the countries who had citizens on that aircraft, we owe it to the wider world that has been transfixed by this mystery for three weeks now."
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said an international force of 10 aircraft and 10 ships searched for clues Monday. A similar force was set to roll out Tuesday.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Monday that a new joint search coordination agency will operate out of Perth.
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About two-thirds of the people on the plane that disappeared March 8 are Chinese. Abbott defended Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's announcement last week that everyone on board was assumed to be dead.
"That's the absolute overwhelming weight of evidence and I think that Prime Minister Najib Razak was perfectly entitled to come to that conclusion," he said.
On Sunday, more than two dozen of Chinese passengers' family members arrived in Kuala Lumpur and immediately held a protest at a hotel, holding up banners that read, "We want evidence, truth, dignity" in Chinese, and "Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back."