Ships are on their way to investigate a new object spotted by Chinese satellites in the southern Indian Ocean that could be wreckage from a missing Malaysian airliner carrying 239 people, China and Malaysia said yesterday.
The object, about 22m long and 13m wide, was spotted early on Tuesday approximately 120km from a location where possible debris was sighted by another satellite last Sunday in the remote ocean off western Australia, China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said on its Web site.
The Chinese sighting was first revealed by Malaysian Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Hussein, who was handed a note with details of the sighiting at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
“Chinese ships have been dispatched to the area,” said Hishammuddin, who is also and Acting Malaysian Minister of Transport.
An image of the object was captured by its high-definition Earth observation satellite Gaofen-1 south by west of the possible debris announced by Australia on Thursday, SASTIND said.
The latest possible lead in the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 comes two weeks after it disappeared from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur heading to Beijing.
Searches by more than two dozen countries have so far turned up little but frustration and fresh questions. Six aircraft and two merchant ships have been scouring the area where the possible debris was sighted, but no wreckage has been reported found.
The search has strained ties between China and Malaysia, with Beijing repeatedly leaning on the Southeast Asian nation to step up its hunt and do a better job at looking after the relatives of the Chinese passengers.
For the families of the passengers, the process has proved to be an emotionally wrenching battle to elicit information that yesterday saw Chinese police intervene as relatives of the missing rushed toward Malaysian officials at a Beijing hotel, demanding answers over the fate of their loved ones.
Of the 239 passengers on board the jetliner, 153 are Chinese.
“Government of Malaysia, tell us the truth. Give us back our loved ones,” audience members shouted at yesterday’s briefing at the Lido Hotel, which was also attended by Chinese government officials.
The hotel has hosted daily briefings for relatives from representatives of the airline.
“The Malaysian government is deceiving us. They don’t dare to face us. The Malaysian government are the biggest murderers,” a relative in the audience shouted.
As anger in the hall mounted, some people rushed toward the Malaysian officials, but police intervened and the officials left.
“We can’t bear it any longer,” one woman said. “They’re offering us compensation, but we’ve lost our entire families. This is China. They can’t just tell us to come or go as they please. We’re going to wait here. If they don’t come, we’re not leaving.”
Dozens of countries have been involved in the search for the missing plane, but the lack of firm answers from airline officials has undermined the relatives’ confidence in the hunt for the jet.