There is a “high possibility” that wreckage found off the Mozambican coast is that of the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared two years ago with 239 people on board, a Malaysia official said.
A white, metre-long chunk of metal, thought to be an elevator from a Boeing 777, the type of the missing jet, was found in the Mozambique Channel this week by a US adventurer making an independent search. The discovery raises expectations that more pieces of wreckage will be found.
A South African aeronautical search and rescue expert said he believed that the airliner had crashed in the area first predicted by search-and-rescue specialists.
Late last year a piece of wreckage from the airliner washed ashore on Reunion Island. The airliner is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean and an initial search of 60000km² of sea floor has been extended to take in another 60000km².
The debris found off Mozambique will be tested in Australia, with help from Malaysian authorities and representatives of manufacturer Boeing. It was found in “a location consistent with drift modelling commissioned by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau,” said Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester.
But, he said, “it is too early to speculate on the origin of the debris.” Malaysia’s transport minister, Liow Tiong Lai, said on Wednesday that there was a “high possibility” that the metal fragment came from a 777 jet.
If the debris is confirmed to have come from the missing airliner, South Africa could become involved in the search – the SA Navy has been on anti-piracy operations in the Mozambique Channel.
Arthur Bradshaw, a former general manager of the government agency Air Traffic Management Services, and head of aeronautical search and rescue for South Africa, said: “If I look at the wreckage found on Reunion and that found now, it’s consistent, taking into account current drifts, with the aircraft probably crashing where the search mission co-ordinators originally thought.”
He said additional pieces of debris might be found. “They are likely to be pieces that have a honeycomb-like structure, or pieces such as the rudder or seat cushions. “Those that would have sunk would have been the metal pieces of the fuselage.”