Two pieces of suspected plane debris from Maldives taken to Malaysia for analysis

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Two pieces of suspected plane debris found washed ashore islands in the Maldives have been taken back to Malaysia for further analysis, Malaysia announced on Sunday. The pieces were found last Friday. Investigators are trying to determine if they're connected to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370).

"The first thing we have to do is to determine if it is actually of plane material", said Liow Tiong Lai, Malaysia's transport minister, during a press conference on Sunday. "The objects have been brought back and the investigation team will determine soon if they are debris of the MH370 plane [...] Our team here will confirm if they belong to a plane and if a confirmation is made, the pieces will be sent to the international investigation team to determine if they are from MH370," he added.

The surface of one of the pieces is flat while the other is constructed of "honeycomb material." During the press conference, Liow described one the pieces as being "very small, about the size of your hand".

File photo of suspected plane debris washed ashore Kaafu Atoll on May 31.
Image: Mohamed Wafir (via Facebook).

The debris was reportedly found while authorities were searching Maldives islands for other possible debris. Pieces of debris that resemble a honeycomb material were found on a beach owned by the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru resort, located in the Maldives island chain Kaafu Atoll. Those pieces are reported to have washed ashore onto the resort island around May 31. The investigation into the Maldives debris began as a result of photos of it being uploaded to the social networking website Facebook. The photos show at least two pieces of debris, both appear to be flat, but at least one is made of a honeycomb material. Initially the debris was disposed of as trash and was reportedly sent to the garbage island Thilafushi, where trash is sorted, exported for recycling, or burned. Reports say at the time the debris was collected, no one suspected it could be from MH370.

Investigators examined several other pieces of debris that washed ashore onto other Maldives locations, the Baa Atoll and the islands of Fehendhoo and Fulhahdhoo, and found none of it was related to an aircraft. "My team has witnessed the debris and most of them are negative. They are not related to MH370 and not even plane material," said Liow on Friday. Around August 10, Abdulla Rasheed, a captain of a cargo boat which recently capsized in the waters off the Maldives, stated of debris then recently discovered, "From the pictures of the debris found on most of the islands, I can almost certainly say that they are from the cargo we were carrying." In late July, a piece of a wing known as a flaperon was found washed ashore on Réunion Island. The Malaysian government stated it's from MH370, but according to Chinese officials, the piece has yet to be confirmed to be from the aircraft.

MH370, while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China, vanished without a trace on March 8, 2014. All 239 passengers and crew are believed to be dead. On the day the plane went missing, residents on the small Maldive island of Kudahuvadhoo claimed to have seen a very "low flying jumbo jet" crash into the Indian Ocean. Some also noted the colors appeared to resemble that of a Malaysia Airlines plane. "I've never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We've seen seaplanes, but I'm sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly", one resident was quoted as saying to the newspaper Haveeru Daily. Some claim the plane appeared to he headed in the direction of Diego Garcia, but Malaysian authorities have discounted those claims.

"Based on the monitoring up to date, no indication of Flight MH370 has been observed on any military radars in the country [Maldives]. Furthermore, the data of radars at Maldives airports have also been analysed and shows no indication of the said flight," said Malaysia's transport ministry at the time of the report.