A satellite image of what may be the crash of flight MH370 posted on the official website of China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence. (Photo/SASTIND)
Malaysia's acting transport minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein coordinates the search for missing flight MH370 over the Strait of Malacca, Mar. 11. (Photo/Xinhua)
Chinese satellite images of floating objects and unverified reports of debris findings highlight the ongoing efforts to track down missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as the international search enters its sixth day.
On Wednesday, the official website of China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence said it had captured satellite images of three floating objects in the South China Sea that could belong to the missing Boeing 777-200, which lost contact with ground control at 1:20am on Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The images, which are still being analyzed, showed that the objects were spread across an area with a radius of 20 kilometers.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the Jinggang Shan type 071 amphibious docking ship of the People's Liberation Army's South Sea Fleet had retrieved a red lifejacket and an oil barrel during its search on Wednesday, though it has not been confirmed whether the findings are in any way related to flight MH370.
The Chinese-language Beijing News also posted an unverified report Wednesday evening that a source claiming to be a local volunteer has found a dead body wearing a lifejacket in an area of the Strait of Malacca west of Malaysia, where the search was expanded to after a military radar picked up a signal in the region about 80 minutes after flight MH370 lost contact. This suggested that the plane may have veered far west off its course in an attempt to return to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian air force chief General Rodzali Daud initially denied the radar signal findings but later confirmed that an aircraft was indeed detected on military radar, though he was unsure whether the information was accurate as it was not received in real time and in any case might not belong to MH370.
Vietnam's air traffic management also said it had received an email from a New Zealander working in one of the oil rigs claiming to have spotted a burning object about 300 kilometers off the coast of Vung Tau, the southern tip of the country.
The international search for the missing flight, which was carrying 239 people including 153 Chinese citizens and a Taiwanese national, has so far involved at least 40 ships and nearly 40 aircraft from 12 countries. India, Japan and Brunei are the latest countries to join in the massive search mission which has been expanded to cover more than 92,000 square kilometers of sea and land.
China's premier, Li Keqiang, said Thursday that China will not give up its efforts in searching for MH370 "as long as there is a glimmer of hope."
"We will not give up any suspected clue that is being found," he said. "We are also looking very closely at all suspected clues showing on satellite images."
China has currently sent five helicopters and eight vessels to search in related waters, Li said, adding that 10 satellites are also now being used to provide information and technological support.
"The Chinese government and Chinese people are all deeply concerned about safety of the plane," Li said. "We are all eagerly awaiting news about the plane, even a slightest piece of good news."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a routine press briefing on Wednesday that Malaysia should take primary responsibility in handling the aftermath and investigation as the missing flight was operated by Malaysia Airlines. Qin also urged Malaysia not to miss any clues and to speed up search efforts.
On Tuesday, Chinese vice foreign minister Xie Hangsheng met with Ong Ka Ting, Malaysian prime minister's special envoy to China, in Beijing and expressed the deep concern of the Chinese government and people over the missing flight.
"We hope Malaysia can carefully listen to the families of the Chinese passengers, answer their doubts and appeals and keep them updated on the progress of the search and rescue," Xie said.
Ong expressed condolences to China on behalf of Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak and extended deep sympathies to the families of the Chinese passengers, and pledged that the country will spare no effort to conduct search and rescue and comfort the families of the Chinese passengers.
A total of 115 family members of the passengers on board the missing flight have arrived in Kuala Lumpur and are reportedly being looked after by 72 different caregivers. At least one caregiver is assigned to each family together with a Mandarin translator for the families from China, with "equal amount of of initial financial assistance are being given out to all families of passengers and crew," according to an official statement.
Jean-Paul Troadec, a former director of the Air France Flight 447 accident investigation said that the search for the missing Malaysian plane faces a number of difficulties, and the biggest is to locate the area where the plane disappeared.
He said it took six days to find the first piece of debris of the Air France flight, which slammed into the Atlantic Ocean and killed all 228 people onboard on June 1, 2009. Asked if there is any hope of finding the missing plane, he said, "It is not impossible, but it can be very long."
Li Keqiang 李克強
Qin Gang 秦剛
Xie Hangsheng 謝杭生