China has said one of its satellites discovered three "floating objects" off the southern tip of Vietnam that could be debris from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. The plane vanished six days ago.
China's civil aviation chief cautioned Thursday that there was no proof the objects spotted by a satellite were connected to the missing Malaysian flight.
"Chinese satellites have found smoke and floating objects ... at present we cannot confirm this is related to the missing aircraft," Li Jiaxiang told reporters on the sidelines of China's annual meeting of parliament.
China's state science and technology administration said Wednesday that government satellite images taken on March 9 appear to show "three suspected floating objects" of varying sizes. The administration said the objects are located in a "suspected crash sea area" with a radius of 12 miles (19 kilometers) off the southern tip of Vietnam and east of Malaysia, the original search zone for the Malaysian Airlines flight that vanished on Saturday.
The largest of the suspected pieces of debris measures around 24 meters (79 feet) by 22 meters (72 feet), the administration said, adding that the images were being analyzed.
Vietnam, Malaysia respond
Vietnam said Thursday it had already checked the area where the suspected debris was seen, but added a plane at been sent to recheck the area.
"We are aware and we sent planes to cover that area over the past three days," Deputy Transport Minister Pham Quy Tieu told the Reuters news agency. "Today a [military] plane will search the area again."
Meanwhile, Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein wrote on his Twitter feed: "Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency Bombardier has already been dispatched to investigate alleged claims of debris being found by Chinese satellite imagery."
Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board after leaving Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. The ensuing search includes a 35,800 square mile area of Southeast Asia that on Wednesday was expanded toward India.
Around two thirds of the flight's passengers were Chinese, and China has been pressuring the Malaysian government to get to the bottom of the plane's disappearance. Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at a news conference in Beijing, demanded that the "relevant party" step up coordination.
On Wednesday, it was also revealed that the last message received from the cockpit of the Boeing 777 was the signoff "All right, good night," sent to air traffic controllers six days ago. The last definitive sighting of the flight on civilian radar screens was just before 1:30 a.m. Saturday, less than an hour after it left the Malaysian capital.
dr/av (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)