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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world