China spotted debris in southern corridor, says Malaysia

BEIJING/SEPANG - China has spotted large debris in the southern Indian Ocean where a multi-nation search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 is underway.

The object, around 22 metres long and 13 metres wide, was spotted early on March 18 by China's high-definition earth observation satellite “Gaofen-1”, China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) said on its website.

The debris was located around 120 km south by west from the suspicious objects Australia had detected on March 16 in the remote ocean off western Australia.

MH370 China Satellite finding March 22 map

"China had informed Malaysia and Australia soon after a Chinese satellite spotted a large object possibly related to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370,''  Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei as saying on Saturday.

He added that further analysis and verification is needed on whether the suspicious floating object is related to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

“China will continue to cooperate closely with parties concerned and share information with them, so as to make an all-out effort to search and rescue work,'' he said.

News of the latest finding was announced earlier on Saturday at a press briefing in Malaysia by acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

"The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received satellite image of floating objects in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify," he told reporters near the end of the briefing when he was handed a note on the finding.

Mr Hishammuddin also said weather conditions in the southern corridor were very challenging.

"A cyclone warning has been declared for Tropical Cyclone Gillian, which is located in the southern corridor. Very strong winds and rough seas are expected there today,'' he told the press briefing.

A concurrent multi-nation search in the northern corridor has yielded no results, he added.

"In the northern corridor, in response to diplomatic notes, we can confirm that China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have verbally informed the search and rescue operation that, based on preliminary analysis, there have been no sightings of the aircraft on their radar," he said.

The search in the southern corridor was stepped up after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament on March 20 that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority had received information based on satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search for missing MH370. He said the images showed two objects – the larger of which measured 24 metres and the other 5 metres – floating in the Indian Ocean.

But Mr Abbott had warned that it was possible the debris might turn out not to be related to the missing plane, which took off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8 with 239 people on board and disappeared on its way to Beijing. 

Australian officials had also warned that the objects might be parts of containers.