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Australia probes suspected MH370 debris

March 3, 2016

Investigators say that pieces of suspected aircraft wreckage are to be tested. Fragments believed to be from a passenger jet that disappeared nearly two years ago were found off the coast of Africa.

MH370 Karte des Suchgebiets der australischen Behörden
Image: cc-by-4.0/Australian Transport Safety Bureau

A meter-long piece of white metal found off the coast of Mozambique in southeast Africa earlier this week by a US man - identified by media reports as 58-year-old Seattle lawyer Blaine Alan Gibson - will be sent to Australia for further testing, that country's officials said Thursday.

"It will be examined by officials from Australia and Malaysia, as well as international specialists," Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said in a statement.

Already Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai has said that initial information indicated a "high possibility" it came from a Boeing 777, the same model as MH370.

Australian officials leading the search say they have seen photographs of the suspected piece of the Boeing 777 that disappeared without trace on March 8, 2014 with 239 crew and passengers aboard, but are refusing to speculate until the piece arrives.

"We're not going to draw conclusions from the photos," Dan O'Malley, a spokesman for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.

The missing piece to the puzzle?

Mosambik Gefundenes Wrackteil Untersuchung in Australien Flug MH370
A photograph provided by Blaine Gibson, an amateur US searcher, of debris he's found that's suspected to be from the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 jumbo jet.Image: Reuters/Australian Transport Safety Bureau/Blaine Gibson

If confirmed, it would not be the first piece recovered from the missing jumbo jet. In July, a wing fragment was found washed ashore on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, which experts later determined came from MH370, the only confirmed evidence of the plane's fate so far.

Yet MH370's disappearance remains one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history as there is still only speculation of why the flight vanished. Theories include a hijacking, a crew member or unexplained technical problems that incapacitated the crew. There is still no solid evidence to support any one theory.

Voice370, an international next-of-kin network, issued an emotional appeal Thursday for the search to continue indefinitely.

"We believe that they should not throw in the towel, close this case and simply chalk it up as an unsolvable mystery," the group said in a statement.

MH370 disappeared from radar shortly after it took off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.

It is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean and an initial search of a 60,000 square kilometers (24,000 square miles) area of sea floor has been doubled in size.

jar/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)