Thailand spots suspected debris

Updated: 2014-03-28 08:11

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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Thailand spots suspected debris
Satellite images taken on March 24 of floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean released by Thailand's Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) are seen in this handout provided by GISTDA on March 27, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Satellite images show hundreds of objects scattered across 200-km area

A Thai satellite has detected floating objects about 2,700 kilometers from Perth, Australia, Thailand's space agency said on Thursday, as a team of Malaysian civilian and military officials head for Perth to assist with the search operation.

The Thaichote, or Thailand Earth Observation Satellite, acquired the imagery of objects spread over 450 square km in the Indian Ocean on Monday morning, said a statement from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency of the Thai Ministry of Science and Technology.

The floating objects are suspected to be related to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the agency said.

Anond Snidvongs, executive director of the Thai agency, was quoted by the Nation newspaper as saying that about 300 objects measuring from 2 to 16 meters are scattered about 200 km from the international search area.

The satellite findings have been submitted to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Anond said, adding that the satellite will collect images of these objects a second time that will then be forwarded to Foreign Minister Surapong Tohvichakchaikul.

The Thaichote is a remote sensing satellite used for natural resources observation.

Anond said the objects were about 200 km from the area where a French satellite spotted 122 objects on Sunday. It remains uncertain whether the objects could be debris from flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board.

Also on Thursday, the Japanese government said a Japanese satellite spotted objects suspected of being debris from MH370, without elaborating.

The Malaysian Ministry of Transport said in a statement late on Thursday that the nation is engaged in sending to Perth a team whose members are drawn from the Department of Civil Aviation, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian navy and air force.

This team will work with Australia's Rescue Coordination Center on the search operation, it added.

Although the spotting of suspected debris would help searchers locate the aircraft, a veteran marine expert warned that the huge amount of marine debris in the ocean will make it difficult to authenticate the source of objects spotted by satellites.

"Any search and rescue attempt will be hampered by untold quantities of debris," Charles Moore, a sailor and researcher at the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, California, told The New York Times.

There are no firm data about marine debris, but studies of shoreline cleanup projects and other activities suggest that four-fifths of what is floating in the ocean originates from land sources, the newspaper said. Natural disasters, including hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis, also contribute large amounts of debris.

Searchers looking for a debris field of MH370 are now searching an area known as the Indian Ocean Gyre, a region where there is little movement of the ocean's currents, leading to the accumulation of floating garbage.

Unfavorable weather forced all aircraft involved in the search to suspend their operations on Thursday, but five ships in the area continued the hunt for debris despite the difficult conditions.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said it had to ground all 11 planes scheduled to participate in the search on Thursday because of heavy rain, winds and low clouds.

Three Chinese naval ships, including two helicopters, and two military transport planes are searching the Indian Ocean west of Australia, Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on Thursday.

Pu Zhendong and Xinhua contributed to this story.