A satellite image released by China on Saturday offers the latest sign that wreckage from a Malaysia Airlines plane lost for more than two weeks could be in a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean where planes and ships have been searching for three days.
China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said on its website that a Chinese satellite took an image of an object measuring 72 feet by 43 feet around noon Tuesday.
The image location was about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite viewed two objects two days earlier. The larger object was about as long as the one the Chinese satellite detected.
“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 Saturday.
After about a week of confusion, authorities said pings sent by the Boeing 777 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 the 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 nothing.
One of the objects spotted in the earlier satellite imagery was described as almost 80 feet in length and the other was 15 feet. The Boeing 777-200 is about 209 feet long with a wingspan of 199 feet and a fuselage about 20 feet in diameter, according to Boeing’s website.
Two military planes from China arrived Saturday in Perth to join Australian, New Zealand and U.S. aircraft in the search. Japanese planes will arrive Sunday and ships were in the area or on their way.
The flights Saturday were in relatively good weather, but did not yield any results. It was not immediately known whether the newly released Chinese satellite image would change the search area on Sunday.
Even if both satellites detected the same object, it may be unrelated to the plane. One possibility is that it could have fallen off a cargo vessel.
Aircraft involved in the search include two ultra-long-range commercial jets and four P3 Orions, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.
But because the search area is a four-hour flight from land, the Orions can search for about only two hours before they must fly back. The commercial jets can stay for five hours before heading back to the base.