Debris found off Thai coast 'unlikely to be from MH370'

Villagers inspecting the piece of suspected airplane wreckage at a beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Thailand, on Saturday. Experts said while powerful currents sweeping the Indian Ocean could deposit debris thousands of kilometres away, wreckag
Villagers inspecting the piece of suspected airplane wreckage at a beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Thailand, on Saturday. Experts said while powerful currents sweeping the Indian Ocean could deposit debris thousands of kilometres away, wreckage was unlikely to have drifted across the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BANGKOK • A piece of suspected plane wreckage found off the east coast of southern Thailand on Saturday was unlikely to belong to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which vanished nearly two years ago, said aviation experts and Thai officials.

A large piece of curved metal washed ashore in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Mr Tanyapat Patthikongpan, head of Pak Phanang district, told Reuters. "Villagers found the wreckage, measuring about 2m wide and 3m long."

The find fuelled speculation 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. A piece of the plane washed up on the French island of Reunion last July but no further trace has been found.

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 Mr 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," he said. "It will need to be carefully examined, however, to determine its exact origin."

Other possible sources of aerospace debris included the launching of space rockets by India eastwards over the Bay of Bengal, he said.

There has been no official confirmation from Thailand that the wreckage belongs even to a plane. "Personally, I don't think it's MH370," Thai government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.

District head Patthikongpan said the debris "could have been under the sea for no more than a year, judging from barnacles on it".

A spokesman for the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, the Canberra-based authority overseeing the international search for MH370, said it was "awaiting results of the official examination of the material".

The Malaysian Transport Ministry is in contact with the Thai authorities to verify the debris, a ministry spokesman said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2016, with the headline 'Debris found off Thai coast 'unlikely to be from MH370''. Print Edition | Subscribe