MH370: Malaysia to send team to inspect debris found on Maldives

Story highlights

  • Captain tells local media he thinks Maldives debris is from his capsized barge
  • Malaysia: "Highly premature" to speculate that debris on Maldives is from MH370
  • The Maldives is farther north than Australian models estimate debris would have drifted

(CNN)Malaysia has said it will send a team to the Maldives to inspect debris found on the Indian Ocean archipelago to determine whether it might be related to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The team will carry out an initial verification to establish if any of the debris is from an aircraft, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a statement Monday.
    "At this stage, it is highly premature to speculate on whether this debris is in any way connected to MH370," he cautioned.
    The discovery late last month of part of an aircraft wing on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean has intensified interest in the hunt for remains of Flight 370, which disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board.
    Malaysia says the wing part, known as a flaperon, has been conclusively confirmed to be from the missing Boeing 777. But French authorities overseeing the analysis of the object say that although there is strong evidence to support that belief, they need to do more tests to be absolutely sure.

    Searches continuing around Reunion

    France has stepped up its efforts on and around Reunion, which lies off the east coast of Madagascar in the western Indian Ocean, to look for more potential debris.
    MH370 debris search continues on Reunion Island
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    And authorities on the island of Mauritius, about 175 kilometers (110 miles) east-northeast of Reunion, have also been searching.
    A lot of debris has been turned in to authorities on Reunion for verification. But so far, no leads as strong as the flaperon have been reported.
    The remnants of a suitcase discovered the day after the flaperon have been sent to a French lab for testing.

    Maldives far outside Australian models for debris drift

    According to models calculated by Australia, which is in charge of the underwater search for the wreckage of MH370, debris from the plane wouldn't have made it as far north as the Maldives.
    Australian officials say Reunion is within the range of where debris from the missing plane could have drifted over the months from the remote area of the southeastern Indian Ocean where the aircraft is believed to have gone down.
    But the Maldives, situated off the southern tip of India, are in a different part of the ocean. The archipelago is thousands of kilometers northwest of the area of ocean that Australia is searching.
    The Australian drift models suggest the winds and ocean currents would have pushed the aircraft debris in a predominantly westerly direction, toward southern Africa.
    Maldivian authorities say they have been sending photos of debris found on the islands to Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation. Police have retrieved and placed items reported to them in a storage space in Male, the capital, said Mohammed Shareef, an official in the Maldivian President's office.

    Report: Debris could be from capsized barge

    Further doubt was cast on the possibility that the debris is from MH370 by the captain of a barge that capsized off one of the atolls in the Maldives earlier this year, according to local media.
    The barge captain, Abdulla Rasheed, told the Maldivian news site Haveeru he believes the debris people are finding comes from the wall panels that accounted for most of the vessel's cargo when it overturned.
    "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," Rasheed said.

    Source: Investigators still not ready to confirm flaperon

    In France, meanwhile, analysis of the flaperon found on Reunion is continuing.
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    Investigators from France, Australia, the United States and Boeing are still not ready to say that the part is definitely from MH370, according to a source close to the investigation.
    Representatives from Boeing and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board have now left France where they were assisting the initial inspection of debris and are back in the United States, the source said.
    French officials haven't said when they plan to announce the final results of the analysis of the flaperon.