Malaysia plane search: China checks new ‘debris’ images MH370

22 March 2014

BBC reports – China is investigating new satellite images 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 images are from 18 March – two days after initial satellite pictures of possible debris – and show an object 22m by 13m, 120km from the first site.

Two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76s aircraft sit on the tarmac at RAAF Pearce base near Perth ready to join the search for MH370. Photograph: Rob Griffith/AP

Two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76s aircraft sit on the tarmac at RAAF Pearce base near Perth ready to join the search for MH370. Photograph: Rob Griffith/AP

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.”

The note handed to Mr Hussein. The size of the "debris" was later corrected

The note handed to Mr Hussein. The size of the “debris” was later corrected

Latest image taken by China’s Gaofen-1 satellite

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Australia is already leading a search for potential debris spotted earlier this week. The latest Chinese images were about 120km from that site

Australian authorities said one of the objects on the first satellite images was 24m in size

The 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.

Chinese IL-76 aircraft

Chinese IL-76 aircraft

The Xinhua state news agency said the latest satellite image was of objects about 120km from that site.

China’s CCTV carried the latest image – taken by the Gaofen-1 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite of China’s National Space Administration.

The search in the Indian Ocean is being led by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa).

It despatched six planes to the area 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.

The first plane returned with no success in finding debris.

The note handed to Mr Hussein. The size of the “debris” was later corrected

Relatives in Beijing continued to show their frustration, during a briefing on Saturday

Before being handed the note at his briefing, Mr Hussein said that all means were being pursued to narrow the search corridor and that planes intended to search 10,500 sq nautical miles on Saturday.

But he said the conditions were “very challenging”, with strong currents and rough seas, and a tropical cyclone warning that could affect ships involved in the search.

Mr 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.

Transcript

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.

Continue reading the main story

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, vowed the search would continue until “further searching would be futile – and that day is not in sight”.

Australian Deputy PM Warren Truss

Australian Deputy PM Warren Truss

 

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.

Kate Hodal, the Guardian’s south east Asia correspondent has pointed out that police were called when Chinese relatives of MH370 passengers harangued Malaysian officials earlier. This is from the New Straits Times.

Police were forced to intervene on Saturday as relatives of Chinese passengers aboard vanished Flight MH370 rushed towards Malaysian officials at a Beijing hotel, demanding answers over the fate of their loved ones.

 

“Government of Malaysia, tell us the truth! Give us back our loved ones!” shouted audience members at Saturday’s briefing at the hotel attended by government officials. The hotel has hosted daily briefings for relatives from representatives of the airline.

“The Malaysian government is deceiving us. They don’t dare to face us. The Malaysian government are the biggest murderers,” a relative in the audience shouted, even though there is no evidence to suggest a government conspiracy.

As anger in the hall mounted, some relatives rushed towards the Malaysian officials but police intervened and the officials left the room.

“We can’t bear it any longer,” one woman said. “They’re offering us compensation, but we’ve lost our entire families. This is China. They can’t just tell us to come or go as they please. We’re going to wait here. If they don’t come, we’re not leaving.”

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