A piece of debris found off the southeast African coast that could be from a missing Malaysia Airlines flight is being sent to Australia for testing, officials said on Thursday, two years after the plane carrying 239 people disappeared.
A white, metre-long chunk of metal was found off the coast of Mozambique in southeast Africa earlier this week by a US adventurer who has been carrying out an independent search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The debris will be tested by officials in Australia, with help from Malaysian authorities and representatives of manufacturer Boeing Co.
“It is too early to speculate on the origin of the debris at this stage,” Australian minister for infrastructure and transport Darren Chester told parliament.
However, the piece was found in “a location consistent with drift modelling commissioned by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau”, he said.
Chester’s comments added to a fresh sense of optimism after Malaysia’s transport minister, Liow Tiong Lai, said on Wednesday there was a “high possibility” the metal chunk found off Mozambique belonged to a 777 jet, the same type of aircraft as MH370.
Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew on board shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.
It is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean and an initial search of a 60,000 sq km area of sea floor has been extended to another 60,000 sq km.
A piece of the plane’s wing washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, on the other side of Madagascar, in July 2015 but no further trace has been found since. That piece is being held by French authorities.
The analysis of the piece found between Mozambique and Madagascar would be the first carried out by Australian-led crash investigators.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre, set up in Australia to coordinate the search, “will examine the characteristics of the debris to confirm that it comes from an aircraft and to establish its origin”, the agency said in an email.
It was not expected there would a repeat of jurisdictional disagreements that hampered testing of the Reunion island debris, the agency said, because it was working with Malaysia and Mozambique “to expedite all official requirements”.
Media reports said the debris was found by Seattle lawyer Blaine Alan Gibson. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Voice370, a group representing families of those on board the missing plane, said the discovery meant the search must focus on the coastlines of Mozambique and Madagascar.
“Debris fields, though subject to some degree of dispersal by the elements, generally tend to make landfall in close proximity,” the group said in a statement.