FRENCH officials have revealed new satellite images of objects in a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean as the search continues for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.
The scans show "potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor," Malaysia's Ministry of Transport said in a statement. That is thought to be close to areas of the Indian Ocean where previous satellite images released by Australia and China showed objects that could be debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing over the Gulf of Thailand on March 8 with 239 people on board.
A Malaysian official involved in the search mission said the French image showed an area about 575 miles north from where the Chinese and Australian objects were seen.
One of the pieces was estimated to be about the same size as an object captured on Tuesday last week by the Chinese satellite. It appeared to be 72ft by 43ft. However, the official said the French satellite image was fuzzy and very unclear, making it difficult to determine the exact dimensions.
The latest images were sent to Australia, which is co-ordinating the search about 1550 miles south-west of Perth. The scans could be another clue in the growing mystery over Flight MH370. The search has moved from seas off Vietnam when the plane first went missing to areas not far from the Antarctica, where planes and a ship were looking for a pallet and other debris spotted by a search plane, to determine whether they were from the missing jet.
Wooden pallets are commonly used in shipping, but can also be used in cargo containers carried on planes.
Mike Barton, chief of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's (Amsa) rescue co-ordination centre, said the wooden pallet, which was spotted yesterday, was surrounded by several other objects, including what appeared to be strapping belts of different colours.
A New Zealand P3 Orion military plane was sent to find it but failed, he said. "So, we've gone back to that area again to try and re-find it," Mr Barton said. An Australian navy ship was also involved in the search.
Amsa said the aircraft that spotted the pallet was unable to take photos of it.
"The use of wooden pallets is quite common in the industry," Mr Barton said. "They're usually packed into another container, which is loaded in the belly of the aircraft. It's a possible lead, but we will need to be very certain that this is a pallet because pallets are used in the shipping industry as well."
Eight search planes later departed from a military base near the southwestern Australian city of Perth, but like other searches since Thursday, they have did not produce any results.
The Malaysian authorities have said "pings" sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.
Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are mystified by what happened next.