Two pieces of debris found in Mozambique are “almost certainly” from missing flight MH370, the Australian and Malaysian governments say, bolstering confidence searchers are looking in the right place.
One of the pieces, stamped with “676EB”, was found in December but was only reported to authorities earlier this month, after media reports of the other find, which had the words “NO STEP” on it.
The pieces arrived in Canberra for testing four days ago and it was announced on Thursday investigators had concluded they were consistent with panels from a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the dimensions, materials and construction of both pieces conformed to those of a 777, and the paint and stencilling matched those used by the airline.
Both he and Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said the debris was “almost certainly” from MH370, and finding the objects on the east coast of Africa was consistent with modelling of debris drifting from the search area in the southern Indian Ocean.
With just over 20 per cent or 25,000sq km of the underwater search area yet to be combed, Mr Chester said investigators remained hopeful the aircraft would be found.
The search for the jetliner, which disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board, including six Australians, is expected to be complete by mid-year.
Meanwhile, Mr Liow wants a separate beachcombing effort.
“There is a need for us to search the South African coast to find more debris,” he said.
“Malaysia is sending a team there and we are currently awaiting approval from the South African authorities.
“The coastal search will be by a Malaysian team and focused around South Africa and Mozambique.”
Australian Transport Safety Bureau commissioner Martin Dolan recently flagged the possibility of debris being found in South Africa and on Tuesday, Mr Liow announced an object had been discovered near the town of Mossel Bay.
He said it could be from an inlet cowling of an aircraft engine.
A spokeswoman for the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, which is organising the search off the West Australian coast, said the authenticity of photos in media reports about the South African find, showing an object with part of a Rolls Royce logo, could not be confirmed.
So far only a piece of wing, known as a flaperon, discovered in July on the island of Reunion, has been confirmed as being from the missing jetliner.
Another object found on the shores of Reunion earlier this month by the same member of a beach clean-up crew who found the flaperon was last week deemed unlikely as being from MH370.
The governments of Malaysia, Australia and China maintain the search area will not be expanded beyond the current 120,000sq km zone in the absence of credible new information.