France on Sunday provided Malaysia with satellite images of objects that could be from a passenger jet that went missing more than two weeks ago, the latest word of such images that officials are hoping will help solve one of the world’s great aviation mysteries.
A statement from Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said Malaysia received the images from “French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor.” That is thought to be close to areas of the Indian Ocean where Australia and China provided satellite images of objects that could be debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing March 8 with 239 people on board.
Air and sea searches since Thursday in a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean to determine whether the objects were from the missing jet have been unsuccessful. The statement said the images had been sent to Australia, which is coordinating the search about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, but officials there could not immediately confirm they had received them. It gave no other information on the images.
The images could be another clue in the growing mystery over Flight 370, with the search moving from seas off Vietnam when the plane first went missing to areas now not far from the Antarctica, where planes and a ship were scrambling Sunday looking for a pallet and other debris to determine whether the objects were from the missing jet.
The pallet was spotted by a search plane Saturday, but has not been closely examined. Wooden pallets are commonly used in shipping, but can also be used in cargo containers carried on planes. Mike Barton, chief of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s rescue coordination center, told reporters in Canberra, Australia, that the wooden pallet was spotted by a search aircraft on Saturday, and that it was surrounded by several other objects, including what appeared to be strapping belts of different colors.
A New Zealand P3 Orion military plane was then sent to find it but failed, he said. “So, we’ve gone back to that area again today to try and re-find it,” Barton said. An Australian navy ship was also involved in the search. AMSA said the aircraft that spotted the pallet was unable to take photos of it.
“We went to some of the expert airlines and the use of wooden pallets is quite common in the industry,” Barton said. “They’re usually packed into another container, which is loaded in the belly of the aircraft. … It’s a possible lead, but we will need to be very certain that this is a pallet because pallets are used in the shipping industry as well.”
Sam Cardwell, a spokesman for AMSA, said the maritime agency had requested a cargo manifest from Malaysia Airlines, but he was unsure whether it had been received as of Sunday night. Malaysia Airlines asked The Associated Press to submit questions via email for comment on whether Flight 370 had wooden pallets aboard when it disappeared. There was no immediate response.