Australian transport chief 'confident' debris not from MH370
Published 23/04/2014 | 23:26
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.
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.