Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Chinese satellite spots object in sea

Beijing/Perth, March 22: A Chinese satellite image shows a 22-metre-long, 13-metre-wide object in the southern Indian Ocean, authorities said Saturday even as the multinational search operation for the missing Malaysian airliner continued.

Captured by the high-definition earth observation satellite Gaofen-1 March 18, the image showed the object at 44 degrees, 57 minutes south latitude, and 90 degrees, 13 minutes east longitude, in the southern Indian Ocean, China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said.

The location of the suspicious object is along the southern corridor the missing Malaysia jet might have taken, and about 120 km south by west from the location of the suspicious objects an Australian satellite had found earlier, Xinhua reported citing SASTIND.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

The passenger manifesto named the five Indians as Vinod Koelkar, Chetana Koelkar, Swanand Koelkar, Chandrika Sharma and Kranti Shirsath.

Earlier Saturday, acting Prime Minister of Australia Warren Truss said that the suspicious objects spotted by the Australian satellite in the southern Indian Ocean remained “the best lead” in the massive search for the airliner.

The objects might have either drifted or sunk, but “if there’s something to be found, I’m confident this search will find it”, Truss told a press conference. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is currently on an official visit to Papua New Guinea.

The hunt will continue “indefinitely” until “we are absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile”, he said. “That day is not in sight.”

In response to questions from Xinhua, he said there are many explanations for the satellite images provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) but they remain “a very credible lead”.

What Australia needed to do now was to exert all possible efforts to search for the missing plane, he said.

On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Abbott said that satellite images had spotted two objects in the southern Indian Ocean possibly related to the missing passenger jet.

The discovery led the multinational search forces to focus on a 36,000-square-km sea area about 2,500 km southwest of Perth, but so far there have been no findings of note.

On Saturday morning, AMSA said that search operations for the missing Malaysian airliner resumed in the morning in southern Indian Ocean in good weather.

“The search operations for the missing plane have resumed today (Saturday). The weather conditions are good,” an AMSA spokesperson told IANS on the phone in Canberra.

In a media statement Saturday, the AMSA said it has tasked three Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orions, a New Zealand P3 Orion and two ultra long-range commercial jets to search a 36,000-sq-km area.

The two commercial jets and a RAAF P3 Orion will be the first aircraft to depart from Perth for the search area. These aircraft were due for departure around 9 a.m.

A total of 10 State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers from Western Australia have been tasked as air observers on the commercial jets. On Friday, seven SES volunteers from the Australian state of Victoria were also tasked as air observers.

The AMSA runs a training programme across the country to train SES volunteers in air observation for searches such as this.

Two merchant ships are also in the search area.

Six merchant ships have assisted in the search since a shipping broadcast was issued by the AMSA Monday.