UK & World News

  • 22 March 2014, 20:52

Missing Plane: New Clues As Cyclone Threatens

The Chinese government has released a new satellite image of a large floating object in the southern Indian Ocean which could be wreckage from the missing Malaysian plane.

During a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was handed a piece of paper containing details of the apparent discovery.

The object, measuring 22.5 metres by 13 metres (74ft by 43ft), was photographed on Tuesday March 18 - just 75 miles from where two potential pieces of debris from the jet were spotted by an Australian satellite two days earlier.

China said the object was captured by its high-definition earth observation satellite,Gaofen-1, and ships have been dispatched to the area.

The Chinese location is just to the south of the area of ocean being combed since Thursday by military and civilian planes about 1,500 miles south-west of Perth.

The aircraft include two ultra-long-range commercial jets and four military P3 Orions, which returned to the Australian city after a third unsuccessful day of searching.

The search area is a four-hour flight from land and the Orions can scour for about only two hours before they must fly back. The commercial jets can stay for five hours before returning.

During Saturday's operation, a civil aircraft reported seeing a number of small objects in the search area, including a wooden pallet.

But a New Zealand military plane diverted to the location found only clumps of seaweed.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is overseeing the hunt in the region, said searchers would keep trying to determine whether the objects are related to the lost plane.

However bad weather could affect the operation after a cyclone warning was declared for Tropical Cyclone Gillian, which is forecast to move into the southern search corridor.

Mr Hussein said: "Very strong winds and rough seas are expected there today.

"In the area where possible objects were identified by Australian authorities, there are strong currents and rough seas. Generally, conditions in the southern corridor are very challenging."

Countries in the northern search corridor, which includes China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, said there had been no sightings of the aircraft on their radar.

It comes after angry scenes at a meeting in Beijing when Malaysian officials attempted to leave without answering questions on the search operation from relatives of the missing passengers.

One shouted: "You can't go. You can't leave here. We are here waiting for you 14 days. We want to know what happened, what the reality is."

Another said: "We don't even know if our family members are alive or dead. We should never let them treat us like this!"

Speaking at Peking University during a week-long visit to China, US First Lady Michelle Obama said the US was committed to offering as many resources to the search as possible.

She said: "Please know that we are keeping all of the families and loved ones of those on this flight in our thoughts and in our prayers at this very difficult time."

Flight MH370 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing two weeks ago with 239 people on board, the majority of them from China.

Authorities face a race against time to locate the plane's black box voice and data recorder, which transmits an electronic signal only for 30 days before running out of battery power.

After that it will be much harder to locate the piece of equipment that is likely to hold the key to solving the mystery of what happened to the plane.

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