Malaysia plane search: China checks new 'debris' image

media captionHishammuddin Hussein was handed the information during his daily briefing

China is investigating a new satellite image of debris in the southern Indian Ocean, potentially from missing flight MH370, Malaysian officials say.

Malaysia's acting transport minister read out the news as he was handed it during his daily briefing.

The new image is from 18 March, two days after initial satellite pictures of possible debris, and shows an object 22m by 13m, 120km from the first site.

Flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March carrying 239 people.

Malaysian officials suspect the plane, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was deliberately taken off course.

Angry relatives

Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein broke off the question-and-answer segment of his briefing in Kuala Lumpur to say: "The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received satellite image of floating objects in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify."

He added: "Beijing is expected to make an announcement in a few hours."

image copyrightReuters
image captionLatest image taken by China's Gaofen-1 satellite
image copyrightBBv
image copyrightAmsa
image captionAustralian authorities said one of the objects on the first satellite images was 24m in size
image copyrightAmsa
image captionThe first satellite images were taken on 16 March and assessed by experts

China is one of 26 nations involved in the search for flight MH370. Most of those on board the plane were Chinese nationals.

Planes and vessels are already searching the southern Indian Ocean following earlier satellite images this week that detected possible debris 2,500 km (1,550 miles) south-west of Perth in Australia.

The Xinhua state news agency said the latest satellite image was taken at about 04:00 GMT on 18 March and showed objects about 120km "south by west" from the first site.

The image was taken by the Gaofen-1 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite of China's National Space Administration.

However the floating object the new image apparently shows was not spotted during Saturday's search effort, the Australian agency leading the search in the southern Indian Ocean said.

After operations ended for the day, Australia's Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said an aircraft had reported sighting a number of small objects with the naked eye within a radius of five kilometres, including a wooden pallet.

It also announced that HMAS Success, which is large enough to recover any debris if needed, had arrived in the search area.

Six planes were dispatched on Saturday to search an area roughly the size of Denmark. Additional vessels supplied by China, Japan and the United Kingdom are due to join them in the search.

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe note handed to Mr Hussein. The size of the "debris" was later corrected
image copyrightAFP
image captionRelatives in Beijing continued to show their frustration, during a briefing on Saturday
image copyrightAP
image captionTwo Chinese Ilyushin IL-76s have arrived at RAAF Pearce in Perth to join the search

At his briefing, Acting Transport Minister Hussein also said investigations of the plane's cargo manifest did "not show any link to anything that may have contribution to the plane's disappearance".

He also referred to the angry scenes as Malaysian officials briefed Chinese relatives in Beijing.

"Government of Malaysia, tell us the truth! Give us back our loved ones!" relatives shouted at the Lido Hotel.

Mr Hussein admitted the briefing had been "tense" and an investigation was under way to try to improve the situation.


Mr Hussein's briefing also touched on a reported transcript of communications between the pilots of the plane that was carried in Britain's Daily Telegraph.

The Telegraph's transcript showed routine communications, ending with the fateful final words of co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid: "All right, good night."

Experts say only two elements appeared of any note, although they stressed it was important not to read too much into them. One was that the final message at 01:07 about the plane's altitude - at 35,000ft - was an unnecessary repeat of a message six minutes earlier.

The other was that the loss of communication with the plane occurred at the handover point of Malaysian to Vietnamese air control.

At the press briefing, Mr Hussein said the transcript "does not indicate anything abnormal".

Another Malaysian official at the briefing said the transcript was "not accurate", without specifying what was wrong with the document.

Earlier, Australian Deputy PM Warren Truss vowed the search would continue until "further searching would be futile - and that day is not in sight".

The search has been in two distinct corridors - one stretching to the north-west of the last known location in the Malacca Straits and one to the south-west. This was based on a data "ping" apparently sent to a satellite from the missing plane.

However, on Saturday, Mr Hussein said that China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and several other nations had informed Malaysia that analysis of their radar records had revealed no evidence of flight MH370 crossing their airspace.

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