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122 objects spotted in search for Malaysia jet

KUALA LUMPUR--A French satellite scanning the Indian Ocean for remnants of a missing jetliner found a possible plane debris field containing 122 objects, a top Malaysian official said Wednesday, calling it “the most credible lead that we have.”

Defense 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 Hishammuddin pointedly said that 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 Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, 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 southwest 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 1 meter to 23 meters (25 yards). At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Hishammuddin said some of them “appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid materials.”

The images were taken Sunday and relayed by French-based Airbus Defence and Space, a division of Europe's Airbus Group; its businesses include the operation of satellites and satellite communications.

Various floating objects have been spotted in the area by planes over the last week, including on Wednesday, when the Australian Maritime Safety Authority sent a tweet saying three more objects were 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.

None of the objects were seen on a second pass, a frustration that has been repeated several times in the hunt for flight MH370, missing since March 8 with 239 people aboard.

Beijing Sends Envoy

MH370 relatives have endured more than a fortnight of agonising uncertainty.

Two-thirds of the passengers were from China, and relatives there have criticised Malaysia in acid terms, accusing the government and airline of a cover-up and botching the response. Scores of relatives protested outside Malaysia's embassy in Beijing on Tuesday.

“I still believe in direct evidence like something from the plane, or something like that. If they got something then maybe I will accept the result,” said Steve Wang, whose 57-year-old mother was on board.

Beijing kept up the pressure, with Premier Li Keqiang urging Malaysia on Wednesday to involve “more Chinese experts” in its investigation, according to a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.

Malaysia believes the plane was deliberately diverted by someone on board. Scenarios include a hijacking, pilot sabotage or a crisis that incapacitated the crew and left the plane to fly on auto-pilot for hours until it ran out of fuel.

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This graphic released by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency on Wednesday, March 26 shows satellite imagery taken on Sunday, March 23 with the approximate positions of objects seen floating in the southern Indian Ocean in the search zone for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (AP)

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