KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday that a government website has satellite images of suspected debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane off the southern tip of Vietnam.
The report Wednesday says the images from around 11 a.m. on March 9 appear to show “three suspected floating objects” of varying sizes.
The report includes coordinates of a location in the sea off the southern tip of Vietnam and east of Malaysia, which apparently was part of the original search area after the plane disappeared early Saturday. The images were posted on a national defense technology website.
The Xinhua report says the largest of the suspected pieces of debris measures about 24 meters (79 feet) by 22 meters (72 feet).
The search for the missing plane, which left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, has encompassed 35,800 square miles (92,600 square kilometers) of Southeast Asia and on Wednesday expanded toward India.
The new Chinese reports of the satellite images came after several days of sometimes confusing and conflicting statements from Malaysian officials.
Earlier Wednesday, the Malaysian military officially disclosed why it was searching on both sides of country: A review of military radar records showed what might have been the plane turning back and crossing westward into the Strait of Malacca.
That would conflict with the latest images on the Chinese website.
For now, authorities said the international search effort would stay focused on the South China Sea and the strait leading toward the Andaman Sea.
Chinese impatience has grown.
“There’s too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing. “We will not give it up as long as there’s still a shred of hope.”
Some 10 Chinese satellites have been used in the search and rescue operation.
The Boeing 777-200 aircraft, which was expected to land in Beijing at 06:30 Saturday, was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers, including 154 Chinese.
While the whereabouts of the missing plane remain unclear, Chinese scientists on Tuesday announced the finding of three spots of oil slicks that they think may be related to the missing aircraft.
The findings are based on the comparison of remote-sensing satellite images of the oil patterns on the ocean surface in the targeted area before and after the plane went missing, according to Guo Huadong, director of RADI.
“If an aircraft unfortunately crashes into the sea, some floating objects or spilled oil would be found on the water surface. And the fuel oil from the aircraft might slowly form slicks due to the effect of sea waves,” Guo said.
Guo’s institute is cooperating with various departments, including the National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center, to determine the hypothetical location of oil from the plane by analyzing factors such as the speed of ocean currents and timelines for the missing plane in order to confirm whether the oil slicks are related to the plane.
Chinese scientists have been unable to determine whether the slicks are the same as those sampled earlier as search and rescue teams did not provide exact location data. But they believe some might overlap.
“Crew members on a ship are able to monitor objects on the water, but they can sometimes miss macroscopic phenomena. Satellite monitoring from high altitudes allows us to get a clearer view from a broader perspective. When our rescue ships get the satellite monitoring data, they will be able to get timely positioning and other relevant information for the operations,” Guo said.
Meanwhile, the China Coast Guard said its patrol vessel “China Coast Guard 3411”, with the guidance of satellites, had combed 150 square kilometers in four hours on Monday night. But no clue related to the missing jetliner was found.
This report was compiled with information from CCTV News, Xinhua and the Associated Press.