China released Saturday a new satellite image of a large floating object possibly linked to missing Malaysian Flight MH370, boosting search efforts as anger with the pace of the operation boiled over among Chinese relatives in Beijing.
The grainy photo taken on March 18 released by the State Administration of Science Technology and Industry showed an object measuring 22.5 metres by 13 metres (74 by 43 feet) in the southern Indian Ocean.
The location was given as just 120 kilometres (75 miles) distant from where March 16 satellite images — released by Australia on Thursday — had detected two pieces of possible wreckage in a remote, storm-swept stretch of ocean around 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth.
Six planes, including four Orion anti-submarine aircraft packed with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, scoured the area for a third straight day without success Saturday.
The emergence of the new photo was announced in Kuala Lumpur by Malaysian Transport Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who was a handed a note during his daily press briefing on the international search for MH370 which vanished two weeks ago.
A visibly animated Hishammuddin wrapped up the briefing early “to follow this lead”.
Chinese, British and Australian naval ships are already steaming to the search area and the new image will provide welcome backing for the decision to deploy so many resources without confirmation that the objects are pieces of wreckage.
Two-thirds of the 227 passengers on board the missing plane were Chinese and growing anger among their family members over Malaysia’s handling of the crisis exploded during a meeting with Malaysian officials at a Beijing hotel.
Police were forced to intervene as relatives rushed towards the officials, demanding answers which they accuse the Malaysians of withholding.
“Government of Malaysia, tell us the truth! Give us back our loved ones!” they shouted.
After the police stepped in, the Malaysian officials left the room.
“We can’t bear it any longer,” one of the relatives said later. “They’re offering us compensation, but we’ve lost our entire families. Before he cut short his briefing in Kuala Lumpur, Hishammuddin promised to continue engaging with the families despite the growing tensions.
“I know this roller coaster has been incredibly hard for everyone, especially for the families,” he said.
In Perth, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss vowed there would be no let up in the search.
“We intend to … search until we are absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile and that day is not in sight,” Truss said.
“At this stage we are planning to continue indefinitely.”
The distance from Australia’s west coast allows the Orions only about two hours of actual search time before they must turn around with enough fuel to get back to Perth.
MH370 dropped off civilian radar on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and two weeks later Malaysian investigators still believe it was “deliberately diverted” by someone on board.
Three scenarios have gained particular traction: hijacking, pilot sabotage, and a sudden mid-air crisis that incapacitated the flight crew and left the plane to fly on auto-pilot for several hours until it ran out of fuel and crashed.
Finding wreckage in the remote southern Indian Ocean would undermine the hijacking theory, which many of the relatives continue to cling to.