Plane debris recently found on a beach in Mozambique is ‘almost certainly’ from the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, according to Australian authorities.
A one-metre-long piece of debris thought to have come from the plane’s tail section was discovered by an American man who has been tracking the investigation into the missing flight.
The Australian infrastructure and transport minister, Darren Chester, said that further analysis has shown that the fragment was very likely to have originated from the flight.
"That such debris has been found on the east coast of Africa is consistent with drift modelling... and further affirms our search efforts in the southern Indian Ocean," he said.
The flight first disappeared on 8 March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, went missing less than an hour after take-off and carried 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 nations.
Investigators believe someone may have deliberately switched off the plane's transponder before diverting it thousands of miles off course, out over the Indian Ocean.
An Australian search team has been looking into the incident since the plane’s disappearance. The investigation has already become one of the most expensive ever conducted and has focused on a 120,000-sq-km band of sea floor in the remote southern Indian Ocean.
Earlier this month, the International Civil Aviation Organization announced stricter requirements for real-time aircraft tracking in a bid to prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future.
This latest finding comes after a piece of the plane's wing was recovered on the shore of Reunion island in the Indian Ocean on the other side of Madagascar, in July 2015.The Mozambique debris was examined by investigators from Australia and Malaysia, as well as specialists from Boeing, Geoscience Australia and the Australian National University in Canberra.
The discovery may force authorities to continue the investigation beyond the proposed mid-2016 schedule for it to be wound up.
"If they don't find the plane in the area where they're searching now, they and others need to continue to look," said Blaine Alan Gibson, who found one of the new pieces of debris this month.
"They've got to solve this mystery. We can't give up after the current search area is completed."
"I can't use the word happy to describe how I feel, because that means that the plane crashed and that the plane crashed in a forceful impact," Gibson said. "I'd use the word 'hopeful'."
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai believes the coasts of South Africa and Mozambique should be searched and Malaysia wants to send a team.
"We are currently awaiting approval from the South African authorities," Liow said. "The coastal search will be by a Malaysian team and focused around South Africa and Mozambique."