23 Mar 2014

MH370: French satellite images show ‘potential objects’

New French satellite images show possible debris from the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 being searched in the southern Indian Ocean.

The latest lead comes as the international search for the missing plane entered its third week, with still no confirmed trace of the Boeing 777 that vanished with 239 people on board.

“This morning, Malaysia received new satellite images from the French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor,” the Malaysian transport ministry said in a statement.

“Malaysia immediately relayed these images to the Australian rescue co-ordination centre.”

The statement gave no details as to whether the objects were in the same vicinity as the other possible finds in a vast swathe of some of the most inhospitable sea territory on earth.

‘Strapping belts’

An international force resumed its search efforts on Sunday, concentrating in on two areas some 1,500 miles south-west of Perth in an effort to find the object identified by China and other small debris including a wooden pallet spotted by a search plane on Saturday.

Mike Barton, from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), said that the possible debris seen by the search aircraft also included “strapping belts of different lengths.”

Mr Barton added: “Part of the description was a wooden palette and a number of other items which were non-descript around it, and some belts of different colours around it as well, strapping belts of different lengths.”

Mr Barton said while pallets could be found in aircrafts they were also found in the shipping industry.

He said: “It’s a possible lead, but we will need to be very certain that this is a pallet, because pallet are used in the shipping industry as well.”

Chinese ships

An Australian naval vessel was in the area on Sunday, with a small flotilla of Chinese ships heading to the search zone in the coming days. Merchant ships that had been involved in the search had been released, AMSA said.

Japan and India were also sending more planes and Australian and Chinese search and navy vessels are steaming towards the southern search zone.

John Young, general manager of AMSA’s emergency response division, confirmed Chinese military aircraft would be involved in the search

He said: “China has offered the two Ilyushin-76 aircraft, there are a number of war ships on the way to the area.

“The Chinese polar research and supply ship Xue Long which we worked with in an incident in January in the Antarctic, is now on the way to the search area. So, China is very focussed on assisting with this search.”

‘Increasing hope’

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said there was “increasing hope” of a breakthrough in the hunt for the plane on the strength of Chinese and Australian satellite images.

Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens early on 8 March, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a scheduled flight to Beijing.

While the southern arc is now the main focus of the search, Malaysia says the search will continue in both corridors until confirmed debris is found.

“Hopefully we will eventually provide some sort of closure or at least understanding of what happened on board Malaysian Airlines Flight MA370,” Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said.

“The search will continue and will continue as long as there’s hope.”