Satellite images 'could be debris field of lost Malaysian Airlines Flight 370'
Published 27/03/2014 | 11:00
A French satellite scanning the Indian Ocean for remnants of a missing plane has found a possible plane debris field containing 122 objects.
A top Malaysian official called it "the most credible lead that we have" in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
Defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein also expressed exasperation with the anger among missing passengers' relatives in China, who berated Malaysian government and airline officials earlier in the day in Beijing.
Mr Hishammuddin pointedly said that Chinese families "must also understand that we in Malaysia also lost our loved ones" as did "so many other nations".
Eighteen days into the search for Flight 370, the latest satellite images were the first to suggest that a debris field from the plane, rather than just a few objects, may be floating in the southern Indian Ocean, though no wreckage has been confirmed.
Previously, an Australian satellite detected two large objects and a Chinese satellite detected one.
All three finds were made in roughly the same area, far south-west of Australia, where a desperate, multinational hunt has been going on for days.
Clouds obscured the latest satellite images, but dozens of objects could be seen in the gaps, ranging in length from one yard or metre to 25 yards (23m).
At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Hishammuddin said some of them "appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid materials". The images were taken on Sunday and relayed by French-based Airbus Defence and Space, a division of Europe's Airbus Group.
The company said in a statement that it has mobilised five observation satellites, including two that can produce very high resolution images, to help locate the plane.
None of the objects were seen on a second pass, a frustration that has been repeated several times in the hunt for Flight 370, missing since March 8 with 239 people aboard.
It remains uncertain whether any of the objects seen came from the plane.
Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said: "We're throwing everything we have at this search."
At a hotel banquet room in Beijing, a delegation of Malaysian government and airline officials explained what they knew to relatives of those lost.
They were met with scepticism and even ridicule by some of the roughly 100 people in the audience.
Malaysia announced on Monday that a mathematical analysis of the final known satellite signals from Flight 370 showed that it had crashed in the sea, killing everyone on board. The new data greatly reduced the search zone, but it remains huge – an area estimated at 622,000 sq miles.