KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Satellite images on a Chinese government website show suspected debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner floating off the southern tip of Vietnam, near the plane’s original flight path, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.
The revelation could provide searchers with a focus that has eluded them since the plane disappeared with 239 people aboard just hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. Since then, the search has covered 35,800 square miles, first east and then west of Malaysia, and even expanded toward India on Wednesday.
The Chinese sighting, if confirmed, would be closer to where the frantic hunt started.
The Xinhua report said the images from around 11 a.m. Sunday appear to show three suspected floating objects of varying sizes, the largest about 79 by 72 feet.
The report includes coordinates of a location in the sea off the southern tip of Vietnam and east of Malaysia. The images originally were posted on a national defense technology website. It is far from certain that whatever they show would be in the same location now.
No other governments have confirmed the Xinhua report, which did not say when Chinese officials became aware of the images and associated them with the missing plane.
Two-thirds of the passengers on the flight were Chinese, and the Chinese government has put increasing pressure on Malaysian officials to solve the mystery of the plane’s disappearance.
Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said Malaysia had not been officially informed by China about the images, which he said he was learning about from the news.
If we get confirmation, we will send something, he told The Associated Press early today. Until then, he urged caution: There have been lots of reports of suspected debris.
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.