Satellite images of the suspected debris of the missing Malaysian airlines flight floating on the South China Sea have been released by China, state media reported early Thursday.
The released images of what seems to large floating debris were taken on Sunday but its release by China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) three days later have also raised questions.
“A Chinese satellite has found three floating objects in the suspected site of missing Malaysian plane, according to SASTIND,” a report by the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday morning.
“The SASTIND said on its website on Wednesday that the three suspected objects were monitored at 6.7 degrees north latitude and 105.63 degrees east longitude, spreading across an area with a radius of 20 kilometres,” it added.
Premier Li Keqiang told international and domestic press that authorities here were looking closely at images provided by Chinese satellites.
Addressing a press conference at the end of China’s annual National People’s Congress on Thursday morning, he said China was “closely looking at all suspected clues found by the satellites”.
He said 10 Chinese satellites were focused on the job of trying to locate the aircraft.
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China had activated a “comprehensive emergency response”, Li said, adding that eight Chinese vessels had been dispatched to look for the flight and one more was on its way.
The missing flight MH370 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew vanished early Saturday on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing after losing contact with air traffic control in waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.
Two-thirds of the passengers on board, 154, the plane were Chinese.
According to the BBC, the largest of the floating object in the series of three satellite images measure around 24 metres by 22 metres.
It added that the wingspan of the missing Boeing 777 was around 61 metres. The satellite images place the objects 150 miles (250km) or so from the aircraft's last known position over the South China Sea and 250 miles from an oil rig on which a worker reported seeing a burning object in the sky on Saturday morning.
The report quoted China's civil aviation chief Li Jiaxiang as saying: “Chinese satellites have found smoke and floating objects... At present we cannot confirm this is related to the missing aircraft.”
Vietnam's deputy transport minister said Vietnamese planes had already searched the area but would do so again.
The new development comes within hours after China had requested Malaysia to verify rumors that the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may have turned back from its scheduled course before vanishing.
“We have send requests to the Malaysian side through diplomatic channels, asking them to check up on rumors right away and inform China of all information available,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang in a written statement.
A Malaysian military official told a press conference on Sunday the missing flight may have changed route and turned back from its scheduled course before disappearing Saturday.
However, earlier on Wednesday, Malaysia's Air Force Chief Gen. Rodzali Daud denied a report that military radar had tracked MH370 flying over the Strait of Malacca, although he did not rule out the possibility that the aircraft turned back before it vanished from radar screens.
Based on this possibility, multinational search operation to locate the missing flight has been expanded to the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea with more countries joining in the mission.
Forty-two ships and 39 aircraft have been deployed so far in the hunt for the Boeing 777-200 plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members.
Meanwhile, Malaysia airlines released a statement early denying claims that some families of the passengers on the missing flight MH370 were flown to India instead of Malaysia.
“Malaysia Airlines flies directly from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur without a transit. There is also no Malaysia Airlines direct flight from Hong Kong to Mumbai or any part of India,” the short statement said, adding the security and safety of their passengers is "of the utmost importance" to them.
According to earlier reports which have been spreading on local media site as well as internet portals, the airline messed up in transit at the Hong Kong International Airport and flew the passenger relatives to India instead of Malaysia.