Suspected MH370 debris ‘may indicate fire on the plane’
Relatives of passengers on board the missing flight express frustration at search efforts
A piece of plane debris possibly belonging to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is displayed during a press conference by Mozambique Civil Aviation Authority, in Maputo, Mozambique, on September 6th, 2016. File photograph: Antonio Silva/EPA
Relatives of some of the 239 passengers and crew on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 have called for more of its suspected debris to be examined in order to define a new search area.
Malaysia, China and Australia agreed in July that the search in the southern Indian Ocean would be suspended after the current 120,000sq km expanse had been thoroughly examined with deep-sea sonar equipment in the absence of credible new evidence that identified the plane’s location.
Eight relatives of missing passengers who met with Australian officials co-ordinating the search expressed frustration that they were not given a definition of what constituted credible new evidence that would result in a continuation of the search.
American wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson attended the meeting at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau headquarters with the relatives from Malaysia, China, Australia and Indonesia and handed over to investigators five pieces of potential debris that he found on beaches in Madagascar.
Two of the pieces were burnt, which could indicate a disastrous fire on board, he said.
Mr Gibson previously found a panel from Flight 370 in Mozambique.
Malaysia has yet to collect other potential debris that he has found washed up on Madagascar since June and handed to authorities there.
“I hope that the search will go on and in my amateur opinion this constitutes new, credible evidence that justifies continuing the search,” he told reporters of his unconfirmed debris find.
Some confirmed pieces of debris have washed ashore in the western Indian Ocean, and the families believe other items that have yet to be examined may be clues to the plane’s location.
Grace Nathan, a Malaysian whose mother was on the Boeing 777 that vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8th, 2014, said governments should be co-ordinating a search for debris and using drift modelling to define a new area to search after the current search is to be completed in December.
“We want to call on the three nations - Australia, China and Malaysia - to make a concerted effort to go out and look for this credible new information,” Ms Nathan said.
“It’s very impressive that one private individual citizen, Blaine Alan Gibson, has managed to find up to 15 pieces of aircraft debris and we hope that these three nations do more than just hope by fluke [that] people find more debris,” she said.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirmed in a statement that it had received debris from Mr Gibson and was seeking advice from Malaysia on how Australia should proceed.
Oceanographers are analysing the first piece of wreckage found, a wing flap that washed up on Réunion Island off the African coast in July last year - 16 months after the plane went missing - in the hope of narrowing a possible next search area adjoining the current search boundary through drift modelling.
A wing flap found on Tanzania is also being examined at Australian Transport Safety Bureau headquarters for clues.
Search officials expect more Flight 370 wreckage to wash up in the months ahead.