A French satellite scanning the Indian Ocean for remnants of a missing plane have found a possible plane debris field containing 122 objects.
A top Malaysian official called it “the most credible lead that we have” in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
Defence 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 Mr Hishammuddin said Chinese families “must also understand that we in Malaysia also lost our loved ones” as did “so many other nations”.
Eighteen days into the search for 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 south-west 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 yard or metre to 25 yards (23m).
At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Hishammuddin said some of them “appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid materials”.
The images were taken on Sunday and relayed by French-based Airbus Defence and Space, a division of Europe’s Airbus Group.
The company said in a statement that it has mobilised five observation satellites, including two that can produce very high resolution images, to help locate the plane.
Various floating objects have been spotted in the area by planes over the last week, including yesterday when the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said three more objects had been seen.
The authority said two objects seen from a civil aircraft appeared to be rope, and that a New Zealand military plane spotted a blue object.