* France provides new satellite images showing possible
* Images in same general area as Australian and Chinese
* Malaysian authorities brief passengers' families for "more
than six hours"
By Niluksi Koswanage and Matt Siegel
KUALA LUMPUR/PERTH, March 23 French satellite
images show "floating debris" in the southern Indian Ocean,
Paris said on Sunday, which together with Chinese and Australian
images of suspicious objects in the same wide area have focused
the search for a missing Malaysian jetliner in remote seas off
The new lead came as the international search for Malaysia
Airlines Flight MH370 entered its third week, with
still no confirmed trace of the Boeing 777 that vanished
with 239 people on board.
"This morning, Malaysia received new satellite images from
the French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity
of the southern corridor," the Malaysian Transport Ministry said
in a statement. "Malaysia immediately relayed these images to
the Australian rescue co-ordination centre."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had said there was
"increasing hope" of a breakthrough in the hunt for the plane on
the strength of Chinese and Australian images of possible large
The French Foreign Ministry said radar echoes from a
satellite put the new debris finding about 2,300 km (1,430
miles) from Perth, without giving a direction or a date.
The debris in the Australian image was about 2,500 km
southwest of Perth and the Chinese sighting, captured two days
later, was around 120 km (75 miles) "south by west" of that.
"These elements have immediately been passed on to the
Malaysian authorities," the French ministry said in a statement.
"France had decided to mobilise complementary satellite means to
continue the search in the identified zone."
Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens early on
March 8, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on
a scheduled flight to Beijing.
An international force resumed its search efforts on Sunday,
zeroing in on two areas around where the earlier sightings were
made in an effort to find the object identified by China and
other small debris, including a wooden pallet, spotted by a
search plane on Saturday.
Nothing was found, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
(AMSA) said in a statement. The search area was covered in early
sea fog, particularly in the western areas, but conditions
improved during the day.
"The search will resume tomorrow," AMSA said. "Chinese
military Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft and Japanese P-3C aircraft will
join the search on Monday."
China said the object it had seen on the satellite image was
22 metres long (74ft) and 13 metres (43ft) wide, floating in
some of the most inhospitable sea territory on Earth.
It could not easily be determined from the blurred images
whether the objects were the same as those detected by
Australia, but the Chinese photograph could depict a cluster of
smaller objects, said a senior military officer from one of the
26 nations involved in the search for the plane.
The wing of a Boeing 777-200ER is approximately 27 metres
long and 14 metres wide at its base, according to estimates
derived from publicly available scale drawings. Its fuselage is
63.7 metres long by 6.2 metres wide.
HIJACK OR SABOTAGE?
Investigators believe someone on the flight shut off the
plane's communications systems, and partial military radar
tracking showed it turning west and re-crossing the Malay
Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.
That has led them to focus on hijacking or sabotage, but
they have not ruled out technical problems. Faint electronic
"pings" detected by a commercial satellite suggested it flew for
another six hours or so, but could do no better than place its
final signal on one of two vast arcs.
The lack of solid news has meant a prolonged and harrowing
wait for families of the passengers, who have complained both in
Beijing and Kuala Lumpur about the absence of information, many
breaking down with grief. Most of the passengers boarding MH370
The Malaysian statement said a "high-level" team briefed
relatives in Beijing on Sunday in a meeting that lasted more
than six hours.
While the southern arc is now the main focus of the search,
Malaysia says efforts will continue in both corridors until
confirmed debris is found.
"Hopefully we will eventually provide some sort of closure
or at least understanding of what happened on board Malaysian
Airlines Flight MA370," Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren
Truss said. "The search will continue and will continue as long
as there's hope."
(Additional reporting by A.Ananthalakshmi, Siva Govindasamy and
Stuart Grudgings in Kuala Lumpur, Jason Lee in Beijing, Byron
Kaye in Canberra, Jane Wardell in Sydney and Dominique Vidalon
in Paris; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Alex Richardson)