Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: China reports new image of debris in the Indian Ocean

Chinese searchers spot possible debris in southern corridor, say Malaysian officials

A new lead has been dramatically introduced into the case of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, with China releasing a satellite image of what could be wreckage from the plane.

The grainy photograph showing a large object measuring 72ft by 43ft bolstered hopes that the southern Indian Ocean may yet yield clues to one of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation history.

The image’s release, and the investigation by the Chinese, was announced by Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, after he was handed a note during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur. The image was captured by a Chinese satellite last Tuesday, two days after an Australian satellite spotted two objects, one of them a similar length to this latest object.

The new discovery was about 75 miles south of the original location – a distance which debris conceivably could have travelled in two days. Experts cautioned, though, that it remained a distinct possibility that both satellites had captured a lost shipping container, rather than a portion of the plane which disappeared off radar screens during an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March.

 

Oceanographer Dr Simon Boxall of the University of Southampton said the object spotted by the Chinese satellite was unlikely to be the same as one of two objects highlighted by the Australian authorities as it would have had to have travelled against the prevailing current.

However, he said it was conceivable that all three pieces of debris were remains of the plane as they could have drifted that far apart in the two weeks since the plane went missing. This scenario, Dr Boxall said, was “not unlikely”.

The satellite picture from CCTV NEWS, the English news channel of China Central Television. The satellite picture from CCTV NEWS, the English news channel of China Central Television.

Aircraft from Australia, New Zealand and US were joined by two military planes from China, which has also dispatched ships to the site about 1,500 miles south-west of Perth where the object was photographed by the high-definition Earth observation satellite Gaofen-1 on 18 March.

Speaking before the new satellite image was released, Warren Truss, Australia’s acting Prime Minister, warned that a comprehensive search could take a long time.

“It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we’re absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile – and that day is not in sight,” he said in Perth, the staging post for search aircraft. “If there’s something there to be found, I’m confident that this search effort will locate it.”

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority map of the planned search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 21, 2014 The Australian Maritime Safety Authority map of the planned search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 21, 2014

The search is a challenging one, in an isolated location with strong currents and rough seas, and an ocean depth of up to 23,000ft. Mr Hussein noted that a low-level warning has been declared for a tropical cyclone approaching Australia, although it is currently to the country’s north.

The Transport Minister said he wanted to pay “special tribute to the men and women from all countries who are putting themselves in harm’s way in the search for MH370”, with some of the vessels joining the operation possibly having “to go through the cyclone to get to the [search] area”.

Pings sent by MH370 for several hours after it disappeared indicate that it ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor extending towards Antarctica.

The British survey ship HMS Echo, which is equipped with sensitive underwater detection equipment, is on its way, but a Ministry of Defence spokesman said it would take more than 10 days to get to the southern corridor.

The Malaysian authorities believe the Boeing 777 veered drastically off course – with its communication systems disabled – as a result of deliberate action by someone on board. The most likely scenario, they say, was a hijacking, pilot sabotage or a sudden mid-air technical crisis.

The agony of families waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones spilled over again, with relatives angrily confronting Malaysian government and airline officials at a meeting in Beijing. The plane was carrying 153 Chinese passengers.

“You can’t leave here! We want to know what the reality is!” relatives shouted in frustration, before releasing a media statement saying they believed they were being “strung along, kept in the dark and lied to by the Malaysian government”.

Relatives of passengers on board Air France Flight AF447, which went missing on the way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, urged the families of MH370 to demand an investigation by experts of their choice to “safeguard full transparency and best practices”. Bernd Gans, who lost a daughter, and Barbara Crolow, who lost her son, wrote in an open letter that the relatives should also demand financial aid from the Malaysian government.

Experts said families could seek compensation now. Floyd Wisner, a US lawyer who represented the families of Flight AF447, said that when a plane belonging to the Indonesian airline Adam Air disappeared in 2007, he secured a deal with the insurers before any trace of the plane was found. “The families may seek compensation even before any wreckage or bodies are found,” he? said.

“In the coming days there are likely to be more difficulties for the government and the people of Malaysia, more pain,” said Murray Hiebert, a South-east Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “In some senses, Malaysia and China may go through the grief the US experienced following the September 11 terrorist attacks, after which many bodies were never recovered.

“Obviously this is a disaster that Malaysia will carry in its national psyche. It will have to find a way to incorporate it into its narrative, and learn to live and move forward with the pain and loss, which won’t go away for a long time.”

Additional reporting by Ian Johnston

Costs to find MH370

As the days drag by without flight MH370 being found, the costs continue to mount.

The Malaysian acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, has stated that finding the missing jet is the most important priority, with costs not yet being considered – but eventually someone must foot the bill. The International Civil Aviation Organisation said the location of the accident will determine which country has jurisdiction. Over international waters, the state where the aircraft was registered, in this case Malaysia, must foot the bill.

The US has said it has already spent more than $2.5m (£1.5m) of the $4m it has set aside for the search, with other countries providing aircraft and ships.

The cost of finding the wreckage of Air France flight AF447 in the Atlantic in 2009 was €32m (£27m).

Chris Stevenson

READ MORE: Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: 'We are not giving up', say officials after third day of 'debris' search
Missing Malaysia Flight MH370: Spotter planes flying low over Indian Ocean fail to find any sign of jet
Missing Flight MH370: Debris in the Indian Ocean spotted by satellite in hunt for aeroplane
Missing Malaysian Flight MH370: Following in the trail of the lost plane
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent