A Chinese military agency yesterday released satellite imagery showing large debris floating in the South China Sea along the flight path of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, according to news agencies in Beijing.
The images were captured on Sunday, The Associated Press quoted New China News Agency as reporting. The Chinese military reportedly described the site as a “suspected crash area” based on the location and size of the three debris pieces estimated to be over 70 feet in length and width. The debris are floating between the Malaysian peninsula and Vietnam.
The news agency didn’t specify why Beijing hadn’t reported the images on Sunday, although media believe China’s armed forces may have been reluctant in straight away revealing technological capabilities to other nations involved in the search.
Since the plane’s disappearance early Saturday several purported debris sightings, including debris that was believed to be the door of the missing jet, a “yellow object” suspected to be a life raft deployed from the aircraft and oil slicks spotted in the Gulf of Thailand, have proven to be unrelated to MH370.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s air force chief Rodzali Daud denies making a statement that the missing plane was tracked by military radar off course to a location off the Strait of Malacca but says that the navy “has not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back on a reciprocal heading”.
On Tuesday, Daud was quoted as saying that the plane was last detected at 2:40 a.m. near Pulau Perak, an island in the Malacca Strait.
Xinhua reports that China is requesting that Malaysia verify the rumors that MH370 changed its scheduled course before suddenly losing contact.
UPDATE (11:46 a.m.): Vietnamese authorities said that jets already searched the area where the debris was spotted but will check again. Via The Guardian:
One military official has told Reuters a plane has been sent to the region already.
“We are aware and we sent planes to cover that area over the past three days,” deputy transport minister Pham Quy Tieu told Reuters.
“Today a (military) plane will search the area again.”
However another military official said they are waiting to view the photographs to identity the exact area themselves.
UPDATE: (12:30 p.m.): Via Reuters: Vietnamese aircraft fail to locate debris spotted in satellite images:
A search by two Vietnamese aircraft responding to information provided by a Chinese satellite has failed to locate objects suspected of being wreckage from a missing Malaysian airliner, a Reuters journalist on board a search plane said on Thursday.
Aircraft repeatedly circled the area over the South China Sea but were unable to detect any objects, said the journalist, who flew aboard a Antonov 26 cargo plane for three hours.
[Image via BBC screen-grab]