A piece of suspected plane wreckage has been found off the coast of southern Thailand, a local official said on Saturday (23rd January), prompting speculation it might belong to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished nearly 2 years ago.
A large piece of curved metal washed ashore in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, where villagers reported it to the authorities to help identify it, Tanyapat Patthikongpan, head of Pak Phanang district, told Reuters.
“Villagers found the wreckage, measuring about 2m wide and 3m long,” he said.
The find has fuelled speculation in the Thai media that the debris could belong to MH370, which disappeared with 239 people on board during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014.
There has been no official confirmation that the wreckage belongs to a plane. And Patthikongpan added that “fishermen said it could have been under the sea for no more than a year, judging from barnacles on it.”
Police Sub Lt It Paijit Pongkaew said the suspected wreckage would be brought to the district police station for the experts from the aviation sector and the country’s air force to inspect it.
“We are in the process of contacting the relevant authorities, especially from the aviation sector and also the air force, to enable them to better inspect the suspected wreckage of the plane,” he told Bernama via telephone from Pak Phanang, Sunday (24th January).
The found wreckage, he said, had been placed at the sub-district chief’s house in Pak Phanang for security reason before the authority moved it to the police station.
According to a separate report by Reuters, experts said that while powerful currents sweeping the Indian Ocean could deposit debris thousands of kilometres away, wreckage was extremely unlikely to have drifted across the equator into the northern hemisphere.
The location of the debris in Thailand “would appear to be inconsistent with the drift models that appeared when MH370’s flaperon was discovered in Reunion last July,” said Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor at Flightglobal, an industry publication.
“The markings, engineering, and tooling apparent in this debris strongly suggest that it is aerospace related. It will need to be carefully examined, however, to determine it’s exact origin,” he added.
Other possible sources of aerospace debris included the launching of space rockets by India eastwards over the Bay of Bengal, he said.
Investigators believe someone may have deliberately switched off MH370’s transponder before diverting it thousands of miles off course. Most of the passengers were Chinese. Beijing said it was following developments closely.
Lingering uncertainty surrounding its fate has tormented the families of those on board. Some have said even the discovery of debris would still not solve the mystery.
UPDATE (26th January):
According to a report from The Star Online, the wreckage found off the coast of southern Thailand is not from MH370.
The daily quoted Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai as saying that the Malaysian team comprising of Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), Ministry, and Malaysian Airlines (MAS) officials found that the part assembly number, wire bundle number and bolts part number did not match those of a Boeing 777.
He added that the part numbers found on the recovered debris are not listed in the MAS B777 Illustrated Parts Catalogue manual.
“Based on these identifying details, the team has confirmed that the debris does not belong to a B777 9M-MRO aircraft (MH370),” Liow said in a statement.