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Saturday 30 August 2014

Australian transport chief 'confident' debris not from MH370

Published 23/04/2014 | 23:26

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A USNS Cesar Chavez's helicopter, a Super Puma, carries supplies next to ships Australian Navy ships HMAS Success as they conduct a Replenishment at Sea with United States Navy Ship (USNS) Cesar Chavez (not pictured) in the southern Indian Ocean as they continue to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in this handpout picture released by the Australian Defence Force April 15, 2014. A U.S. Navy underwater drone sent to search for a missing Malaysian jetliner on the floor of the Indian Ocean had its first mission cut short after exceeding its 4.5 km (2.8 mile) depth limit, Australian search authorities said on Tuesday.The launch of the Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle on Monday marked a new phase in the six week search for Malaysia Airlines MH370 which disappeared on March 8 and is presumed to have crashed thousands of kilometres (miles) off course with the loss of all 239 people on board.   REUTERS/Australian Defence Force/Handout via Reuters  (MID-SEA - Tags: DISASTER MARITIME TRANSPORT SOCIETY MILITARY)

ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES
A USNS Cesar Chavez's helicopter, a Super Puma, carries supplies next to ships Australian Navy ships HMAS Success as they conduct a Replenishment at Sea with United States Navy Ship (USNS) Cesar Chavez (not pictured) in the southern Indian Ocean as they continue to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
Manhunt: HMS Echo is among the ships searching for plane. Photo: PA
Manhunt: HMS Echo is among the ships searching for plane. Photo: PA

Australia's transport safety chief said this evening he is confident that debris picked up on a Western Australian beach this week had not come from the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370.

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Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio that he was looking at detailed photographs of the debris taken by the police.

The material, no description of which was given, is the first report of suspected debris in weeks and the first lead since April 4, when authorities detected what they believed might have been a signal from the Malaysia Airlines plane's black box recorder.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott admitted the search strategy may change if seabed scans taken by a US Navy drone failed to turn up a trace of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board.

"We may well re-think the search but we will not rest until we have done everything we can to solve this mystery," he said.

"The only way we can get to the bottom of this is to keep searching the probable impact zone until we find something or until we have searched it as thoroughly as human ingenuity allows at this time."

The Bluefin-21 drone, a key component in the search after the detection of audio signals or "pings" believed to be from the plane's black box flight recorder, is due to end its first full mission, possibly today.

The Australian and Malaysian governments are under growing pressure to show what lengths they are prepared to go to in order to give closure to the grieving families of those on board flight MH370.

In a sign of the families' growing desperation for answers, a group purporting to be relatives of the missing flight's passengers published a letter to Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, urging the government to investigate old media reports that the plane landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

"It is high time that the government should start thinking out of the box by exploring and re-examining all leads, new and old," said the letter, published on Facebook today.

Authorities suspended the air search for the second day in a row today due to heavy rain, low cloud and big seas.

"Current weather conditions are resulting in heavy seas and poor visibility and are making air search activities ineffective and potentially hazardous," the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement, adding 12 ships would continue to help with the operation.

Meanwhile, the Bluefin-21 was nearing the end of its first assignment scouring a 10 square kms (6.2 square mile) stretch of seabed where authorities traced what they believed was a black box signal two weeks ago.

Search officials have said that once the Bluefin-21's current mission, some 2,000km north west of the Australian city of Perth, is finished, they will redeploy the submarine to other areas yet to be determined.

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