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Wednesday May 22, 2019

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China to investigate debris in MH370 search

A Chinese satellite has spotted an object floating in the southern Indian Ocean which could be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Malaysia's transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein confirms the object is 22 metres long and 30 metres wide. 

A Chinese satellite has spotted debris in the southern Indian Ocean that could be related to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, officials said on Saturday, in what is hoped to be a strong lead after two weeks of fruitless searching for the missing aircraft.

Satellite images, taken on 18 March, show an object measuring 22 metres by 13 metres (72ft by 43ft) floating 1,550 miles south-west of Perth, Australia. The suspected debris was spotted 75 miles south-west of another floating object – measuring 24 metres (79 ft) across – that was sighted two days earlier but not yet found.

It is unclear whether the objects are the same or unrelated. Rough weather in the southern corridor could move floating objects at high speed, and if the objects lose any air they could sink quickly. Australian officials had expected the 24-metre object to have moved closer to Perth rather than away from it.

Malaysia's defence and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, confirmed the sighting during his daily news briefing in Kuala Lumpur, when he was handed a hand-written note saying that China would be investigating.

"The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received a satellite image of floating objects in the southern corridor, and they will be sending ships to verify," he told journalists.

The Chinese authorities were expected to make an announcement on Saturday night about the images.

Nearly 30 nations are involved in the search for flight MH370, which left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on 8 March and disappeared from radar screens roughly two hours after takeoff with 239 people on board. The last known satellite "ping" made by the plane has led investigators to look for the aircraft along two flight corridors stretching from the last known location in the Malacca Strait – one dipping south towards the Indian Ocean, and the other north towards Turkmenistan.

The search in the northern corridor has so far turned up nothing, with China, India, Pakistan, Burma, Cambodia and Kazakhstan confirming zero sightings. Australia's Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) is leading the search in the Indian Ocean, where six planes scoured 10,500 square nautical kilometres on Saturday, despite a cyclone warningthroughout the southern corridor. Strong winds and rough seas have been forecast, posing potential problems for Chinese, British and Australian ships that have headed to the same area. Chinese, Australian and Japanese aircraft are expected to head searches from today.

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