22 Mar 2014

MH370: hand-written note, breaking news & new sighting

The third week of the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has begun with another sighting of what may or may not turn out to be wreckage.

We were sitting in an uneventful press conference here in Kuala Lumpur when towards the end the transport minister was handed a piece of paper and then announced he had “breaking news”.

The Chinese ambassador had informed the Malaysians that a Chinese satellite had spotted an object (pictured above) in the southern corridor of the search.

The satellite captured an image of it on 18 March – two days after the first sighting by an American satellite.

Read more: ‘A positive development’ in the hunt for MH370

The minister said the object was 22m by 30m, but such is the somewhat haphazard nature of communication here that he turned out to be inaccurate.

The Chinese later said the object was 22.5m by 13m. The size matters, because aviation experts say the smaller the object, the more likely it is to be wreckage from a plane.

Even at this smaller size, it could turn out to be something else. A shipping container, perhaps.

Pre News refresh player – this is the default player for the C4 news site – please do not delete. Ziad

Warning – the video does contain some flash photography

However, the Chinese, like the Australians before them, have decided that it is better to tell the relatives of the 239 missing the little that they know, rather than giving them no news at all.

Given that this second sighting is just 75 miles from the first, it is probably the same object riding the drifting currents and waves.

The advantage of two sightings is that scientists can then attempt to “drift model” where the object is now.

Read more: flight 370 mystery: ongoing anguish for those left behind

A short time ago we talked to a senior Malaysian official involved in the investigation. “We can’t be too excited about this, we have to be mature about it,” he said.

“We have to think of the families – or we will be criticised.”

And what with a cyclone moving in, the search by ships and aircraft to locate it and identify it may not be easy.

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