By Scott McDonald
and Rob Griffith
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: While possible clues about the fate of a Malaysia Airlines jet missing for more than two weeks keep coming from satellite images, it was as frustrating as ever Saturday to turn the hints from space into actual sightings.
China released a satellite image showing an object floating in a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean near where planes and ships have been crisscrossing since similar images from an Australian satellite emerged earlier in the week. China’s image, showing an object that appeared to be 72 feet by 43 feet, was taken Tuesday.
“The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received a satellite image of a floating object in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify,” Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters.
Australian officials said the location was within the 14,000-square-mile area they searched on Saturday, but the object was not found. Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman Andrea Hayward-Maher said she did not know if the precise coordinates of the location had been searched, but that coordinators will use the information to refine the search.
The authority, which is overseeing the search in the region, said 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 agency said in a statement that searchers would keep trying to determine whether the objects are related to the lost plane.
The latest satellite image is another clue in the baffling search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which dropped off air traffic control screens March 8 over the Gulf of Thailand with 239 people on board.
After about a week of confusion, Malaysian authorities said pings sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.
The discovery of two objects by the Australian satellite led several countries to send planes and ships to a stretch of the Indian Ocean about 1,550 miles southwest of Australia. But three days of searching have produced no confirmed signs of the plane.
Two military planes from China arrived Saturday in Perth to join Australian, New Zealand and U.S. aircraft in the search.