NST, 13 Mar 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Satellite images on a Chinese government website show suspected debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner floating off the southern tip of Vietnam, near the plane’s original flight path, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.
The revelation could provide searchers with a focus that has eluded them since the plane disappeared with 239 people aboard early Saturday.
The Xinhua report said the images from around 11 a.m. on Sunday appear to show “three suspected floating objects” of varying sizes, the largest about 24 meters (79 feet) by 22 meters (72 feet).
The report includes coordinates of a location in the sea off the southern tip of Vietnam and east of Malaysia. The images originally were posted on a national defence technology website.
No other governments have confirmed the Xinhua report, which did not say when Chinese officials became aware of the images and associated them with the missing plane.
The search for the plane, which left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing before disappearing early Saturday, has encompassed 35,800 square miles (92,600 square kilometres) of Southeast Asia and on Wednesday expanded toward India.
Two-thirds of the passengers on the flight were Chinese, and the Chinese government has put increasing pressure on Malaysian officials to find solve the mystery of the plane’s disappearance.
Also, Wednesday, it was revealed that the last message from the cockpit of the missing flight was routine. “All right, good night,” was the signoff transmitted to air traffic controllers five days ago.
Then the Boeing 777 vanished as it cruised over the South China Sea toward Vietnam, and nothing has been seen or heard of the jetliner since.
Those final words were picked up by controllers and relayed in Beijing to anguished relatives of some of the people aboard Flight MH370.
The new Chinese reports of the satellite images came after several days of sometimes confusing and conflicting statements from Malaysian officials.
Earlier Wednesday, the Malaysian military officially disclosed why it was searching on both sides of country: A review of military radar records showed what might have been the plane turning back and crossing westward into the Strait of Malacca.
That would conflict with the latest images on the Chinese website.
For now, authorities said the international search effort would stay focused on the South China Sea and the strait leading toward the Andaman Sea.
Chinese impatience has grown.
“There’s too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing. “We will not give it up as long as there’s still a shred of hope.”
“We have nothing to hide,” said Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. “There is only confusion if you want to see confusion.” –AP