Chinese satellites have spotted a new object in the southern Indian Ocean that could be wreckage from a missing Malaysian airliner carrying 239 people, and ships are on their way to investigate, China and Malaysia said on Saturday.
The object, around 22 metres long and 13 metres wide, was spotted early on March 18 around 120 km from a location where possible debris was sighted by another satellite on March 16 in the remote ocean off western Australia, China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said on its website.
The Chinese sighting was first revealed by Malaysia’s Defence Minister and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who was handed a note with details during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
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“Chinese ships have been dispatched to the area,” Hishammuddin said.
China said an image of the object had been captured by its high-definition earth observation satellite “Gaofen-1”. The location was south by west of the possible debris seen by Australia Thursday, SASTIND said.
The latest possible lead in the hunt for the jetliner comes two weeks after it disappeared from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking-off from the Malaysian capital on a scheduled flight to Beijing.
Searches by more than two dozen countries have so far turned up little but frustration and fresh questions about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
The international search for the jet has in recent days focused on the southern Indian Ocean far off Australia’s west coast after satellite images captured floating objects that investigators believed may be parts of an aircraft.
Six aircraft and two merchant ships have been scouring the area, but there were no reports of any wreckage being found.
Australia, which announced the first satellite image and is coordinating the rescue, has cautioned the objects might be a lost shipping container or other debris and may have since sunk.
“Even though this is not a definite lead, it is probably more solid than any other lead around the world and that is why so much effort is being put into this search,” Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters, before latest Chinese report.
Weather conditions were good, with 10 km of visibility, according to officials – a crucial boost for a search that is relying more on human eyes than the technical wizardry of the most advanced aircraft in the world.
India tells Malaysia found no sign of jet
India has told Malaysia it has found no evidence that a missing Malaysia Airlines jet with 239 people on board flew through its airspace, investigators said Saturday.
The first notification that India and a number of other nations on a northern search corridor have come up empty-handed leaves the two-week-old investigation dependent on increasingly fragile hopes that an object spotted in the southern Indian Ocean comes from Flight MH370.
China and Pakistan are also among countries that have found no trace of the jet in their airspace, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.
The response from India is crucial because any radar data from that country could help identify whether the jet turned north or south after disappearing on March 8.
Officials close to the probe said available information showed the jet may have passed close to Port Blair, capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 885 km further northwest along an established commercial flying route.
“It went very near Port Blair, that much we understand from information available,” said a senior military official. “It had gone into Indian airspace and then it was not clear where the plane went after Port Blair.”