KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A French satellite scanning the Indian Ocean for remnants of a missing jetliner found a possible plane debris field containing 122 objects, a top Malaysian official said today, calling it “the most credible lead that we have.”
Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also expressed exasperation with the anger rising among missing passengers’ relatives in China, who berated Malaysian government and airline officials earlier in the day in Beijing.
About two-thirds of the missing are Chinese, but Hishammuddin pointedly said that Chinese families “must also understand that we in Malaysia also lost our loved ones” as did “so many other nations.”
Nineteen days into the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the latest satellite images are the first to suggest that a debris field from the plane — rather than just a few objects — may be floating in the southern Indian Ocean, though no wreckage has been confirmed. Previously, an Australian satellite detected two large objects and a Chinese satellite detected one.
All three finds were made in roughly the same area, far southwest of Australia, where a desperate, multinational hunt has been going on for days.
Clouds obscured the latest satellite images, but dozens of objects could be seen in the gaps, ranging in length from one meter (yard) to 23 meters (25 yards). At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Hishammuddin said some of them “appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid materials.”
The images were taken Sunday and relayed by French-based Airbus Defence and Space, a division of Europe’s Airbus Group; its businesses include the operation of satellites and satellite communications. The company said in a statement that it has mobilized five observation satellites, including two that can produce high resolution images, to help locate the plane.