Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Debris found on west Australia beach investigated for link to lost plane

Officials analysing 'sheet metal with rivets' washed up on western coast of Australia

The authorities searching for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have launched an investigation to establish whether some debris found on the west coast of Australia could be linked to the missing jet.

Pictures of the material, described as looking like sheet metal with distinct rivets, have been passed to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) for further analysis.

The debris, discovered by a member of the public walking on the beach near Augusta in Western Australia, is a rare visual lead and comes at a point when, experts said, there is a good chance material from a plane crash in the Indian Ocean would start washing up.

Officials have nonetheless advised caution, with ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan telling reporters that “the more we look at it [the debris], the less excited we get”.

He said a full analysis could take a number of days, but added: “It's sufficiently interesting for us to take a look at the photographs. We take all leads seriously.”

Even if investigators fail to link the latest piece of debris to the jet that vanished on 8 March with 239 people on board, the Western Australia emergency services minister Joe Francis said there was a decent chance material on the plane would make its way to land at some point.

“It wouldn't surprise me if sooner or later ... if there was debris floating, it would end up on the West Australian coast,” he told ABC local radio in Perth.

“Weather systems in the southern hemisphere predominantly move in a clockwise direction, and this time of the year the Leeuwin Current is pretty much at its strongest.

“Anything in that area over 50 days travelling at two knots, say four kilometres an hour, sooner or later is likely to have been caught up in it [the current].”

Meanwhile, the Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said that it would not be the end of the underwater search if the submersible Bluefin 21 failed to find any clue in the area it is currently scanning.

The submarine has scanned more than 80 per cent of the 310-square kilometre (120-square mile) seabed search zone off the Australian west coast, creating a three-dimensional sonar map of the ocean floor. Nothing of interest has been found.

When that search is complete, more powerful sonar equipment is expected to be brought in to search further and deeper than the capability of Bluefin 21.

A the same time, the search coordinators said visual searches would continue in a bid to locate debris in a wider area around 1,600km (1,000 miles) northwest of Perth.

Though a tropical cyclone suspended the air search for a second day, officials said 12 ships joined Wednesday’s search covering a stretch of around 38,000 square km (14,500 square miles) of sea.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen