By EILEEN NG
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s government said May 12 that two more pieces of debris, discovered in South Africa and Rodrigues Island off Mauritius, were “almost certainly” from Flight 370, bringing the total number of pieces believed to have come from the missing Malaysian jet to five.
The aircraft mysteriously disappeared more than two years ago with 239 people on board, and so far an extensive underwater search of vast area of the Indian Ocean off Australia’s west coast has turned up empty.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the two new pieces were an engine cowling piece with a partial Rolls-Royce logo and an interior panel piece from an aircraft cabin — the first interior part found from the missing plane.
An international team of experts in Australia who examined the debris concluded that both pieces were consistent with panels found on a Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 777 aircraft, Liow said.
“As such, the team has confirmed that both pieces of debris from South Africa and Rodrigues Island are almost certainly from MH370,” he said in a statement.
All five pieces have been found in various spots around the Indian Ocean. Last year, a wing part from the plane washed ashore on France’s Reunion Island. Then in March, investigators confirmed two pieces of debris found along Mozambique’s coast were almost certainly from the aircraft.
The jet, which vanished on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is believed to have crashed somewhere in a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean about 1,100 miles off Australia’s west coast. Authorities had predicted that any debris from the plane that isn’t on the ocean floor would eventually be carried by currents to the east coast of Africa.
Though the discovery of the debris has bolstered authorities’ assertion that the plane went down somewhere in the Indian Ocean, none of the parts have thus far yielded any clues into exactly what happened to the aircraft and precisely where it crashed. Investigators are examining marine life attached to the debris to see if it could somehow help them narrow down where it entered the ocean, but haven’t discovered anything useful yet.
The most recent confirmed debris includes a piece discovered by an archaeologist who spotted it while walking along South Africa’s southern coast, and another part found by tourists on Rodrigues Island, off Mauritius.
The Australian Safety Transport Bureau said in a technical report that the interior part, identified by its decorative laminate, is a panel from the main cabin and believed to be part of a door closet.
The most critical clues lie within the elusive underwater wreckage, which would hold the coveted flight data recorders, or black boxes. The data recorder should reveal details related to the plane’s controls, including whether aircraft systems that might have helped track the plane were deliberately turned off, as some investigators believe.
But so far, crews have combed more than 40,000 square miles of the search zone to no avail. They expect to complete their sweep of the area by the end of June.