China spots new object in hunt for Malaysia Airlines jet as tropical cyclone warning issued
Satellite image shows possible debris 120km southwest of previous sighting off coast of Australia
The international search for missing flight MH370 is focusing on a new location in the south Indian Ocean after China released a satellite image of what could be wreckage from the airliner.
More than two weeks after the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared, the new image shows an object 120 kilometres southwest of where suspected wreckage was previously spotted.
But deteriorating weather and a warning of the approach of Tropical Cyclone Gillian in the remote area is hampering search efforts.
Released by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, the new grainy black and white image - captured on March 18 - shows a 22-metre-long, 13-metre-wide object.
It is the second such sighting in the southern corridor search area in the past week after Australia released satellite images of suspected debris last Sunday. "Captured by the high-definition earth observation satellite Gaofen-1 at about 12am on March 18 Beijing time, the imagery spotted the object at 44 degrees, 57 minutes south latitude, and 90 degrees, 13 minutes east longitude, in the southern Indian Ocean," the administration said.
"The location of the suspicious object is along the southern corridor that missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 might have taken, and about 120 kilometres south by west from the location of a suspicious object Australia found before."
Malaysia's acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who was handed the news during a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur, said: "The Chinese ambassador received a satellite image of floating objects in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify."
It is unclear how long it will take ships to arrive at the location, with deteriorating weather hampering the search.
A warning was issued for Tropical Cyclone Gillian, which would make operations "very challenging" for ships, with rough seas and strong currents. Aircraft would also be flying into strong winds, officials said.
It is not immediately clear if the new image is related to the possible debris seen floating 2,260 kilometres west of Perth.
But if it is confirmed to show debris from flight MH370, it means the Boeing 777 crashed into the ocean while thousands of kilometres off course from its projected route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of March 8.
Watch: Australia launches search after objects related to MH370 spotted
A relative of one of the 239 passengers and crew, who is staying at the Lido Hotel in Beijing, said she hoped the wreckage was not from the plane. "They're still alive," she insisted.
Another family member said: "I think it's better to stay at the hotel and wait for news, otherwise I'll go home and see their clothes and it hurts too much."
Meanwhile, a third day of intensified search efforts off the coast of Perth - covering an area of 36,000 square kilometres - produced no further sightings of potential wreckage.
At least six aircraft and two ships will be deployed today.
Additional reporting by Satish Cheney