China is demanding that Malaysia turn over satellite data used to conclude that a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was lost in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors.
Among the flight’s 239 passengers, 153 were Chinese nationals, making the incident a highly emotional one for Beijing. Family members of the missing passengers have complained bitterly about a lack of reliable information and some suspect they are not being told the whole truth.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng as telling the Malaysian ambassador to Beijing that China wanted to know the specific facts that led Malaysia to announce Monday night that the plane had been lost.
There was no immediate response from the Malaysian side.
Malaysian PM says flight lost in Southern Indian Ocean, no chance of survivors
The Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared over two weeks ago crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Monday.
New satellite analysis from Britain had shown that Flight MH370, with 239 people on board, was last seen in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia, he said in a statement.
“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites,” Najib said.
“It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”
Najib added that the families of those on board had been informed of the developments.
His comments came as an Australian navy ship was close to finding possible debris from the jetliner after a mounting number of sightings of floating objects that are believed to parts of the plane.
The objects, described as a “grey or green circular object” and an “orange rectangular object”, were spotted on Monday afternoon, said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, adding that three planes were also en route to the area.
Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8. No confirmed sighting of the plane has been made since and there is no clue what went wrong.
Attention and resources in the search for the Boeing 777 had shifted from an initial focus north of the Equator to an increasingly narrowed stretch of rough sea in the southern Indian Ocean, thousands of miles from the original flight path.
Earlier on Monday, Xinhua news agency said a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft spotted two “relatively big” floating objects and several smaller white ones dispersed over several kilometres.
Over 150 of the passengers on board the missing plane were Chinese.
In a further sign the search was bearing fruit, the U.S. Navy was flying in its high-tech black box detector to the area.
The so-called black boxes — the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder — record what happens on board planes in flight. At crash sites, finding the black boxes soon is crucial because the locator beacons they carry fade out after 30 days.
“If debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as possible since the battery life of the black box’s pinger is limited,” Commander Chris Budde, U.S. Seventh Fleet Operations Officer, said in an emailed statement.
Investigators believe someone on the flight shut off the plane’s communications systems.
Partial military radar tracking showed it turning west and re-crossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.
That has led them to focus on hijacking or sabotage, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems. Faint electronic “pings” detected by a commercial satellite suggested it flew for another six hours or so, but could do no better than place its final signal on one of two vast arcs north and south.
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Cargo pallet, belts sighted in Australia hunt for Malaysia Airlines jet MH370
Perth: Australian officials said Sunday that a wooden cargo pallet along with belts or straps have been spotted in the remote Indian Ocean by one of the aircraft deployed in the hunt for a missing Malaysian jet.
The objects were seen by a civilian aircraft assisting in the search for Malaysia Airlines MH370 on Saturday in what the Australian Maritime Safety Authority confirmed was the "first visual sighting in the search so far".
"Part of the description was a wooden pallet and a number of other items which were nondescript around it and some belts of some different colours around it as well, strapping belts of different lengths," AMSA aircraft operations coordinator Mike Barton said.
"We tried to refind that yesterday, one of the New Zealand aircraft, and unfortunately they didn’t find it. That’s the nature of it -- you only have to be off by a few hundred metres in a fast-travelling aircraft," he told a press briefing.
Barton said Sunday’s search, which will involve four military and four civilian aircraft, would return to the area to try and zero in on the objects again.
Aviation experts had advised that wooden pallets were quite commonly used to pack goods in planes, Barton added, describing it as a "possible lead".
Such pallets were usually packed into another container loaded into the belly of the aircraft he said, adding however that they were also used in the shipping industry.
He cautioned that the nearby straps "could be anything" and "until we refind these items and have a good look at them it’s hard to say whether they are associated with this or not."
A "methodical search" would also continue of a 59,000 square kilometre (22,800 square mile) expanse of sea to try and locate large items captured by satellite imagery on March 16 and 18.
Barton said the operation had shifted away from an earlier emphasis on radar to focus on visual examination "of a more defined area based on the satellite imagery."
He said looking into the sun and through haze from a much lower altitude than a satellite was making things difficult for search crews.
Sunday’s weather was not as good as the previous day’s, with sea fog and low cloud hampering visibility early in the day, though Barton said it appeared to be clearing and he was hopeful of a "full search in with some good conditions."
But the major challenge was the site’s remoteness.
"The aircraft are operating at extreme ranges... At 2,500 kilometres away they’re operating at the limits of their endurance and only having a short period of one to two hours in the search area and back again," he said.
China spots ’floating object’ in search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
Update: Chinese satellites have spotted objects floating in the southern search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that could be debris and has sent ships to investigate, Malaysia said on Saturday.
"Chinese ships have been dispatched to the area. Beijing is expected to make an announcement in a few hours," Malaysian Defence Minister and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters.
Two weeks after a Malaysian airliner carrying 239 people vanished, international teams stepped up their search deep in the southern Indian Ocean on Saturday, as a Malaysian minister expressed fear a possible sighting of debris may be another false lead.
This is the satellite image the Chinese say could show debris in the latest search development.
It lies 120km west of the current search zone in the southern Indian Ocean.
Six aircraft and two merchant ships were scouring an area of the remote southern Indian Ocean where suspected debris was spotted by satellite six days ago.
The international team hunting Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the remote southern Indian Ocean failed to turn up anything on Friday, and Australia’s deputy prime minister said the suspected debris may have sunk.
Malaysia on Friday asked the United States to provide undersea surveillance technology to help in the search for the wreckage of a missing airliner, Pentagon officials said.
The request came as a near two-week search failed to find any debris from the Boeing 777 that disappeared off the radar after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8.
In a phone call to Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, Malaysia’s defense minister and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein "requested that the US consider providing some undersea surveillance equipment," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
Hagel assured his counterpart that he would "assess the availability and utility of military undersea technology for such a task and provide him an update in the very near future," Kirby said in a statement.
Officials did not say precisely what equipment the Pentagon might provide but the US military has invested heavily in robotic technology designed for undersea surveillance against enemy submarines or torpedoes.
The Malaysian minister thanked Hagel for the US Navy’s assistance in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared with 239 passengers and crew in an unprecedented aviation mystery.
Two US Navy maritime surveillance planes, a P-3 Orion and P-8 Poseidon, have been taking part in the search.
The P-8 has flown with Australian aircraft in a search of the southern Indian Ocean, while the P-3 --- which had been combing an area in the Bay of Bengal -- is due to join the search in the southern zone, officials said.
A search effort on Friday of a remote stretch of Indian Ocean concluded "without any sightings," the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said in a statement.
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