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Authorities Cautious on Declaring Debris Part of MH370

Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai(C) speaks at a news conference about debris found on a beach in Mozambique that may be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 3, 2016.

A white, meter-long chunk of metal discovered on the coast of southeast Africa is to being sent to Australia to be tested to determine whether it is part of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing for two years, and one of aviation's greatest unsolved mysteries.

The piece of debris was found this week in Mozambique, “a location consistent with drift modeling commissioned by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau," Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester told members of parliament in Canberra Thursday.

Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Center, established to supervise the MH370 search, says it "will examine the characteristics of the debris to confirm that it comes from an aircraft and to establish its origin."

Malaysian authorities say the fiberglass skinned, honeycombed aluminum cored panel appears to be a slice of the horizontal stabilizer of an airliner. It is stenciled with the words “No Step” and has a large pin with alphanumerical writing on its head, leading to speculation it is from the missing Boeing 777, which vanished with 239 people on board.

“Let's wait for us to verify if it really [is] confirmed from MH370. Then we can follow suit with many other actions taken,” said Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai on Thursday. “It's just like the flaperon that we found in La Reunion Island. It has to be confirmed, then we launch a search.”

The barnacle-encrusted flaperon, a control section on the wing, was found July 29 last year on the French island in the Indian Ocean. It was the first confirmed piece of the Malaysian Airlines plane discovered since the Boeing 777 disappeared shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014.

French police officers carry a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island, July 29, 2015.
French police officers carry a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island, July 29, 2015.

The latest suspected fragment from MH370 was given to Mozambique authorities by an American, Blaine Alan Gibson, who said he had hired a boat to go to a sandbar in search of flotsam.

Gibson, an attorney from Seattle in the state of Washington, has visited several countries in search of MH370 debris.

Liow told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that an interim statement by an international investigation team looking into the disappearance will be issued March 8, the second anniversary of the ill-fated flight.

MH370 was supposed to land in Beijing but it veered sharply off course, continuing on a straight path across the Indian Ocean.

A multinational effort off Australia's west coast has found no trace of the aircraft or its passengers. Several ships are still actively conducting underwater search operations.