, Kuala Lumpur, Mar 3 – Suspected aircraft debris has been found on the coast of Mozambique, and Malaysia’s transport minister said Wednesday there was a “high possibility” it came from a Boeing 777, the same model as missing flight MH370.
“Based on early reports, high possibility debris found in Mozambique belongs to a B777,” Liow Tiong Lai said on his Twitter feed.
US television network NBC earlier reported a piece of debris had been found along the eastern African coast between Mozambique and Madagascar.
If confirmed, it would be the second piece of debris found from MH370, which disappeared on March 8, 2014 while on a routine overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew aboard.
Last July, a man on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion found a wing fragment experts later determined came from the Malaysia Airlines flight, the only confirmed evidence of the plane’s fate so far.
Citing US, Malaysian and Australian investigators who had seen photos of the object, NBC said the Mozambique debris could be a horizontal stabiliser — a wing-like part attached to the tail.
Liow said Malaysia was working with Australia, which is coordinating an Indian Ocean search for the ill-fated jumbo jet, to retrieve the debris for closer study.
He stressed that the origin of the item was “yet to be confirmed and verified”.
“I urge everyone to avoid undue speculation as we are not able to conclude that the debris belongs to MH370 at this time,” the transport minister said.
The find comes just days before the two-year anniversary of MH370’s disappearance.
Investigators believe the plane rerouted to the southern Indian Ocean, where it crashed, but no site has been found and the cause of the disaster remains unknown.
– Found by American tourist –
The debris was found on a sandbank in the Mozambique Channel by an American who has been blogging about the search for MH370, NBC said.
Mozambican authorities confirmed a possible plane part had been handed in by an American tourist, who found it near the coastal town of Vilankulo in Inhambane province.
“We received this afternoon a piece of plane that was brought by an American visitor named Blaine Gibson,” Joao de Abreu, president of Mozambique’s Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), told AFP.
“He said he had been walking on the beach two days ago and found the piece near Vilankulo, on a sand bank called Paluma near Benguerra Island,” which is part of the Bazaruto archipelago.
De Abreu said the grey piece of “composite” material, which measures 57 by 90 centimetres (22 by 35 inches), was still in Mozambique and would be turned over to experts for analysis.
“It’s still premature and speculative to say that this piece belongs to a Boeing or an Airbus or another plane,” he added.
A spokesman for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which has been coordinating the search, said it was “working with officials in Mozambique and Malaysia to investigate”.
The disappearance of flight MH370 in 2014 gripped the world and remains one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.
Theories of what happened include a hijacking, rogue pilot action, or sudden mechanical problem that incapacitated the crew, but there is nothing to support any one theory.
Families of passengers accuse Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government of a slow and bungled response, as well as withholding information and treating families poorly. Both strongly deny the charges.
A slew of lawsuits targeting the struggling carrier have been launched in US, Malaysian, Chinese and Australian courts ahead of the two-year anniversary, a deadline for taking legal action against the airline.
Aviation-law specialists say the suits are likely to result in payouts of possibly hundreds of millions of dollars.