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Material that washed up on Australian beach examined in MH370 hunt



By ROD McGUIRK

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Unidentified material that washed ashore in southwestern Australia and is being examined for any link to the lost Malaysian plane is unlikely to have come from the jet, an official said Wednesday.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau was scrutinizing photos of the object, which washed ashore 10 kilometers (6 miles) east of Augusta in Western Australia state. But Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the safety bureau, said an initial analysis of the material - which appeared to be sheet metal with rivets - suggested it was not from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

"We do not consider this likely to be of use to our search for MH370," Dolan told The Associated Press. "At this stage, we are not getting excited."

Dolan said the analysis of the material would likely be completed overnight and a formal statement issued Thursday. Augusta is near Australia's southwestern tip, about 310 kilometers (190 miles) from Perth, where the search has been headquartered.

Meanwhile, Australia's prime minister said Wednesday that failure to find any clue in the most likely crash site of the lost jet would not spell the end of the search, as officials plan soon to bring in more powerful sonar equipment that can delve deeper beneath the Indian Ocean.

The search coordination center said a robotic submarine, the U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21, had scanned more than 80 percent of the 310-square kilometer (120-square mile) seabed search zone off the Australian west coast, creating a three-dimensional sonar map of the ocean floor. Nothing of interest had been found.

The 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) deep search area is a circle 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide around an area where sonar equipment picked up a signal on April 8 consistent with a plane's black boxes. But the batteries powering those signals are now believed dead.

Defense Minister David Johnston said Australia was consulting with Malaysia, China and the United States on the next phase of the search for the plane, which disappeared March 8. Details on the next phase are likely to be announced next week.

Johnston said more powerful towed side-scan commercial sonar equipment would probably be deployed, similar to the remote-controlled subs that found RMS Titanic 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) under the Atlantic Ocean in 1985 and the Australian WWII wreck HMAS Sydney in the Indian Ocean off the Australian coast, north of the current search area, in 2008.

"The next phase, I think, is that we step up with potentially a more powerful, more capable side-scan sonar to do deeper water," Johnston told the AP.

While the Bluefin had less than one-fifth of the seabed search area to complete, Johnston estimated that task would take another two weeks.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the airliner's probable impact zone was 700 kilometers (430 miles) long and 80 kilometers (50 miles) wide. A new search strategy would be adopted if nothing is found in the current seabed search zone.

"If at the end of that period we find nothing, we are not going to abandon the search, we may well rethink the search, but we will not rest until we have done everything we can to solve this mystery," Abbott told reporters.

"We owe it to the families of the 239 people on board, we owe it to the hundreds of millions - indeed billions - of people who travel by air to try to get to the bottom of this. The only way we can get to the bottom of this is to keep searching the probable impact zone until we find something or until we have searched it as thoroughly as human ingenuity allows at this time," he said.

The focus of the next search phase will be decided by continuing analysis of information including flight data and sound detections of the suspected beacons, Johnston said.

"A lot of this seabed has not even been hydrographically surveyed before - some of it has - but we're flying blind," he said, adding that the seabed in the vicinity of the search was up to 7 kilometers (4 miles) deep.

The search center said an air search involving 10 planes was suspended for a second day because of heavy seas and poor visibility.

But 12 ships would join Wednesday's search of an expanse covering 38,000 square kilometers (14,500 square miles), centered 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) northwest of Perth.

Radar and satellite data show the jet veered far off course on March 8 for unknown reasons during its flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. An analysis indicates it would have run out of fuel in the remote section of ocean where the search has been focused. Not one piece of confirmed debris has been found since the massive multinational hunt began.

---

Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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harkone75 April 23 2014 at 8:51 PM

Somehow I get this feeling this jet is no where near what they are thinking. What is crazy is the fact that no pieces of this jet has been found anywhere...makes a person wonder if the jet landed.

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1 reply
Zoom harkone75 April 23 2014 at 10:38 PM

I think it did and the plane is being hid until suspiciousness dies down... they wont make it to USA but maybe Russia or some other middle eastern country

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Rick April 23 2014 at 4:39 PM

another false hope for the families

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1 reply
chasmwuk Rick April 23 2014 at 4:46 PM

Who cares? Nobody survived, obviously. These people who want their loved ones "brought back for a Christian burial" are silly. I'm a Christian, but my body is just a bunch of cells. Feed the fish with it when I die.

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Shalom, Carmela April 23 2014 at 4:28 PM

I would like to know if they have examined any pics from friends and relatives or anybody who was at the airport that day, and was there any last minute cell phone, text messages right before take off? I mean last week they said that co-pilots cell was on so if his was on so was anybody elses?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
joebair April 23 2014 at 8:13 PM

the plane is not in the Indian ocean. None of the erb beacons
were activated by salt water. It is on land somewhere.
Maybe on a desolate island where crews carved out a 5000
foot landing strip. The issue is how are they going to
refuel and service the plane for it's next flight?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
accsport joebair April 23 2014 at 9:21 PM

If you are referring to the ELT's (Emergency Locator Transmitter) a 777-XXX carries at any given time from Two to Ten of them. They are Impact, water , and manually activated without being disabled by the flight crew . What most people do not know is those transmitters punch out a call home on Three different frequencies and within 60 seconds of activation send a coded message to the Cospas-Sarsat Satellites with all the location information.

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itsmegp46 April 23 2014 at 4:44 PM

Why hasn't this piece of debris published publicly? Why is everyone involved in the hunt to MH370 so secretive?

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2 replies
fullblowncustoms itsmegp46 April 23 2014 at 5:03 PM

Secret because it was taken out by mistake from someones military test fire, or Obama drone.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
John itsmegp46 April 23 2014 at 6:24 PM

Possibly less secretive verses incompetent. The entire thing seems to be run by incompetent officials from day one.

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uttingshouse April 23 2014 at 3:36 PM

God Bless all who are missing

Flag Reply +5 rate up
marlynsvr April 23 2014 at 11:56 PM

Plane isn't in the Indian Ocean, need to look in southern Pakistan

Flag Reply +3 rate up
david April 23 2014 at 4:49 PM

The plane turned almost completely around before radar contact was lost. Back in the days of the old west when some one was being tracked they would find away to hide there tracks such as crossing a stream bed and going in another direction all together loosing the tracker. In other words the plane was jacked and landed some were else, not crashed. They are looking in he wrong place and have become complacent as to what kind of a world we live in. This is an evil doing to say the least. God be with the victims and their families.

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sant686995 April 24 2014 at 1:44 AM

Stop the BS already I know everytime the media says something of this plane crash just raises the hope of alll the family members. Just keep the media out of it already and when they do find of what everis left let the family members be the first ones.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
stevelotta April 23 2014 at 8:13 PM

the plane's obviously not in the ocean, is anybody looking for it on the ground?

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