BEIJING - A “seismic event” consistent with an airplane crash has been detected on the sea floor close to where the missing Malaysia Airlines jet lost contact with air traffic control on Saturday, Chinese scientists said Friday.
The signal detected by two stations in Malaysia appeared to indicate that a small tremor occurred on the floor of the sea at 2:55 a.m. about 95 miles south of Vietnam, the scientists said in a statement posted on the website of the University of Science and Technology of China.
"It was a non-seismic zone, therefore judging from the time and location of the event, it might be related to the missing MH370 flight," said the statement. “If it was indeed an airplane crashing into the sea, the seismic wave strength indicated that the crash process was catastrophic.”
The area where the tremor was detected about 70 miles from where the Boeing 777 was last heard from, and 85 minutes after the jet carrying 239 people lost contact, according to South China Morning Post newspaper.
Satellite images from China on Wednesday appeared to show possible crash debris but it later emerged that a search of the area had found no sign of the plane, and Malaysia officials said the pictures had been released by "mistake."
China is known to be impatient over the lack of progress in the investigation.
There has been no trace of the jet or sign of wreckage despite a search by the navies and military aircraft of more than a dozen countries across Southeast Asia.
On Thursday, the White House said that an additional search area for the missing flight may be opened in the Indian Ocean, significantly broadening the potential location of the plane.
- NBC News' Eric Baculinao, Wendy Min and Bo Gu. Reuters contributed to this report.