MH370 LATEST: China says satellite has located 72ft object in Southern Indian Ocean

75 miles from where previous possible wreckage was located.. as Australian pilots spot small objects

  • Malaysian transport minister announced new satellite pictures today
  • He said the Chinese government was sending ships to investigate
  • Images taken four days ago close to sighing made by Australian satellites
  • RAAF search teams spot small pieces of debris floating in the search zone
  • But RNZAF Orion sent to confirm sighting finds only seaweed in the area
  • Australian PM says search will continue until they are ‘satisfied it is futile’
  • It is now two weeks since the Malaysia Airlines flight vanished without trace

A large piece of floating debris has been spotted in the remote Indian Ocean search zone for missing flight MH370, it was revealed today.

Chinese satellites picked up signs of a ‘suspicious’ object measuring 72ft by 42ft in an area 75 miles west of where Australia reported an earlier sighting of floating debris.

The images were taken at lunchtime on March 18, Chinese state media reported, just two days after the sighting by Australian satellites singled out the area in the southern Indian Ocean.

Since the announcement, Australian search teams scouring the remote area reported seeing a number of small objects including a wooden pallet.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion plane with specialist electro-optic observation equipment was diverted to the location, arriving after the first aircraft left but only reported sighting clumps of seaweed

A new hope: Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds up the note on which he was passed the information about the Chinese satellite sighting in the southern Indian Ocean

A new hope: Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds up the note on which he was passed the information about the Chinese satellite sighting in the southern Indian Ocean

Hand-written: A close up of the note passed to Mr Hussein. It is understood that the '30m' figure is incorrect

Hand-written: A close up of the note passed to Mr Hussein. It is understood that the ’30m’ figure is incorrect

 

The Chinese satellite discovery was revealed this morning by Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at a press conference where he gave the latest updates on the search for the missing airliner.

He made the announcement after being handed a handwritten note, adding that Chinese authorities would make an official announcement ‘in a couple of hours’

 

Mr Hussein told reporters at the press conference in Kuala Lumpur: ‘The Chinese ambassador has received satellite images of floating objects in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to investigate.

‘This floating object is 22m long by 30m wide.’ His figures were contradicted by Chinese media, suggesting that portions of the message were lost in translation.

‘I’m going to follow this up immediately,’ Mr Hussein added.

Rough seas: A satellite picture from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the cyclone closing in on the MH370 search zone in the southern Indian Ocean

Rough seas: A satellite picture from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the cyclone closing in on the MH370 search zone in the southern Indian Ocean

 

Mr Hussein earlier told reporters that conditions in the search area are ‘very challenging’ with a tropical cyclone forecast to move in.

‘In the area where possible objects were identified by Australian authorities, there are strong currents and rough seas,’ he said.

‘A cyclone warning has been declared for Tropical Cyclone Gillian, which is located in the southern corridor. Very strong winds and rough seas are expected there today.’

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 announced by Australia on Thursday.

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.

Flight Lieutenant Jason Nichols on board a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, takes notes as they search for debris from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 earlier today in the southern Indian Ocean

Flight Lieutenant Jason Nichols on board a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, takes notes as they search for debris from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 earlier today in the southern Indian Ocean

RAAF Flight officer Rayan Gharazeddine looks out from an Orion as he scans for signs of debris or wreckage

RAAF Flight officer Rayan Gharazeddine looks out from an Orion as he scans for signs of debris or wreckage

 

Sergeant Matthew Falanga stares out at the wide blue ocean: Australia's acting prime minister today said his forces air and sea search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 'will continue while there's still hope'

Sergeant Matthew Falanga stares out at the wide blue ocean: Australia’s acting prime minister today said his forces air and sea search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 ‘will continue while there’s still hope’

 

The announcement came after the first Australian Orion aircraft to make a sortie over the target zone for missing Flight MH370 returned without success.

Flying Officer Peter Moore, the aircraft’s captain, said a combination of ‘less than ideal’ weather and sea conditions had closed in on the flight.

He said his crew had flown through ‘a thick layer of cloud from 2000 feet  to 500 feet, isolate showers and sea fog above the surface’.

However, the aircraft had managed to cover 100 per cent of its planned search area, with RAAF officers manning the visual observer station on board.

‘However, we weren’t able to find any evidence of wreckage from the missing Malaysian aircraft,’ officer Moore said.

Since Australia announced the first image of what could be parts of the aircraft on Thursday, the international search for the plane has focused on an expanse of ocean more than 2,000 km (1,200 miles) southwest of Perth.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said one of its aircraft reported sighting a number of ‘small objects’ with the naked eye, including a wooden pallet, within a radius of five km.

The RNZAF P-3 Orion aircraft sent to take a closer look only reported seeing clumps of seaweed. It dropped a marker buoy to track the movement.

‘A merchant ship in the area has been tasked to relocate and seek to identify the material,’ AMSA said in a statement.

 

Flying Officer Peter Moore, the aircraft's captain, said a combination of 'less than ideal' weather and sea conditions had closed in on the flight

Flying Officer Peter Moore, the aircraft’s captain, said a combination of ‘less than ideal’ weather and sea conditions had closed in on the flight

 

The latest developments came after Australia’s acting prime minister today said the air and sea search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 ‘will continue while there’s still hope’.

Warren Truss said no time limit had been placed on the operation which will continue ‘indefinitely’ and ‘until we are absolutely satisfied further searching is futile.’

He spoke at RAAF airbase Pearce in Perth, western Australia, after meeting with sailors and airmen who have been scouring a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean where debris was spotted by satellite six days ago.

Australia, which announced the potential find and is coordinating the rescue, has cautioned the objects might be a lost shipping container or other debris and may have since sunk.

Two weeks after the Malaysian airliner carrying 239 people vanished, international teams were stepping up their search today.

Weather conditions were difficult in the area identified by Australian satellite pictures, Malaysian officials said in a press conference today, with strong currents and rough seas, and a cyclone predicted to be on the way to the area.

Searches by more than two dozen countries have so far turned up little but frustration and fresh questions about the passenger jet which disappeared on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

Six aircraft and two merchant ships were hunting for signs of the jet today. 

Acting Prime Minister of Australia Warren Truss speaks to the media at the RAAF Pearce Base, where he said the search for MH370 would continue 'while there's still hope' and until officials were certain it was 'futile'

Acting Prime Minister of Australia Warren Truss speaks to the media at the RAAF Pearce Base, where he said the search for MH370 would continue ‘while there’s still hope’ and until officials were certain it was ‘futile’

 

Mr Truss walks with RAAF Wing Commander James Parton and RAAF Group Captain Craig Heap: Mr Truss dismissed a suggestion the Australian Government had waited too long to act after revealing the satellite photos

Mr Truss walks with RAAF Wing Commander James Parton and RAAF Group Captain Craig Heap: Mr Truss dismissed a suggestion the Australian Government had waited too long to act after revealing the satellite photos

 

Asked whether there were any other satellite images yet to be released, Mr Truss said the Australia was ‘not seeking to withold information’.

‘If there is new imagery that is relevant and can be released to the media,  it will be,’ he said.

‘We know the families are anxious for information.’

Mr Truss and the operation’s commander, Group Captain Craig Heap, said identifying and locating the two objects captured on satellite imagea would most likely be done qitwh the naked eye.

‘It is primarily a visual search,’ Mr Truss said. ‘You need to be low, you need to be close.’

Captain Heap added: ‘It’s a very difficult search, but if there’s something out there and we are on top of the area will find [it].’

Uncertainty: A Chinese woman who is a relative of a passenger carries her three-year-old daughter as she arrives at Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing

Uncertainty: A Chinese woman who is a relative of a passenger carries her three-year-old daughter as she arrives at Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing

 

Speaking on the edge of the air base tarmac as the sixth search plane of the day prepared to take off for the remote Indian ocean, Mr Truss said the arrival of two Chinese planes today and a Japanese aircraft tomorrow, as well as Chinese naval boats soon was a huge boost to the operation.

‘This search is intensive, ‘ he said.

‘We have had 15 sorties so far and no findings, but we are searching new areas because of the drift that has occurred.

‘With the arrival of the Chinese fleet, with refuelling [support], it has the capability to stay in the area for a long time.’

Mr Truss dismissed a suggestion the Australian Government had waited too long to act following the discovery of the satellite images, risking the debris sinking to the ocean floor.

He said the search had been launched at the earliest possible moment ‘in relation to the time of the imagery was created’ and ‘as soon as they were identified’ the government had acted.

He defended Tony Abbott’s perceived backdown from insisting the debris was MH370, to conceding a day later it could be a shipping container.

‘There’s a lot of debris floating around the globe continuously and containers fall off ships,’ he said.

‘But even if it’s not a definite lead, it is a more solid lead than any other.’

Mr Truss said Australia had the capability to co-ordinate a large international flotilla and aircraft from all over the world, as more countries sent craft and crew to Perth.

Mr Hussein, Malaysia’s defence minister, said yesterday searchers realised that time was running out. The ‘black box’ voice and data recorder only transmits an electronic signal for about 30 days before its battery dies.

Difficult time: Relatives of passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are seen coming out of a conference room wearing t-shirts reading 'Pray for MH370 Come Back Home Safely', at a hotel in Beijing

Difficult time: Relatives of passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are seen coming out of a conference room wearing t-shirts reading ‘Pray for MH370 Come Back Home Safely’, at a hotel in Beijing

 

A RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft from 92 Wing on the flight line at dusk at RAAF base Pearce in Perth, Western Australia, yesterday, after completing a search sortie for Flight MH370

A RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft from 92 Wing on the flight line at dusk at RAAF base Pearce in Perth, Western Australia, yesterday, after completing a search sortie for Flight MH370

 

Hopes are increasingly pinned on the search area identified by Australian satellite images six days ago after India told Malaysia it found no evidence that the missing jet flew through its airspace.

China and Pakistan are also among countries that have found no trace of the jet in their airspace, said Mr Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transport minister.

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, but the issue is also sensitive because of the presence of military radar.

Sources familiar with the situation in both countries said India had formally told Malaysia that it had checked for any sign of the jet having touched its airspace and found nothing of significance, in response to Kuala Lumpur’s diplomatic request.

The plane’s last confirmed position, picked up by Malaysian military radar, was at 2.15am Malaysia time (1815 GMT March 7) about 200 nautical miles north-west of Malaysia’s Penang island, roughly an hour after it diverted from its scheduled route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

India has said it is possible that the military radars were switched off as it operates on an ‘as required’ basis in that area.

A reluctance to share sensitive military radar data in a region where countries are wary of each other has hampered investigators’ attempts to solve the baffling disappearance, officials have said.

Investigators suspect the Boeing 777 was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled path. They say they are focusing on hijacking or sabotage but have not ruled out technical problems.

The Daily Telegraph published what it said was a transcript of communications between the cockpit of Flight MH370 and Malaysian air control, but few if any new clues emerged.

Search area: A handout picture made available by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on 20 March 2014 shows a map of the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

Search area: A handout picture made available by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on 20 March 2014 shows a map of the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

 

The search itself has strained ties between China and Malaysia, with Beijing repeatedly leaning on the South East Asian nation to step up its hunt and do a better job at looking after the relatives of the Chinese passengers.

For families of the passengers, the process has proved to be an emotionally wrenching battle to elicit information.

In a statement today, relatives in Beijing lambasted a Malaysian delegation for ‘concealing the truth’ and ‘making fools’ out of the families after they said they left a meeting without answering all their questions.

‘This kind of conduct neglects the lives of all the passengers, shows contempt for all their families, and even more, tramples on the dignity of Chinese people and the Chinese government,’ they said.

Some experts have argued that the reluctance to share sensitive radar data and capabilities in a region fraught with suspicion amid China’s military rise and territorial disputes may have hampered the search.

 

 

 

Source : Daily Mail

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