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Debris found in Australia ruled out as from MH370

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - 17:50

[SYDNEY] A piece of debris that washed up on an island off Australia's south coast was not from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, officials said Wednesday as they confirmed there are no plans to extend the underwater search for the plane.

The item was found earlier this month among seaweed and driftwood and resembled part of a plane, with the words "Caution No Step" visible, according to footage on Australia's Channel Seven.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is coordinating the search, examined the debris and dismissed it as being from the jet that vanished in March 2014 with 239 people on board.

"Information received from the manufacturer indicates the item is not consistent with the manufacturing specifications of a Boeing commercial aircraft," the bureau said in a statement.

Two other pieces of debris found around the same time on the Madagascan island of Nosy Boraha are still being examined.

The fate of the plane, presumed to have crashed at sea while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, remains a mystery.

Five pieces of debris believed to have come from the aircraft have so far been discovered thousands of kilometres (miles) from the current search zone far off the west Australian coast, presumed to have drifted there.

Wild weather continues to hamper the search operation's progress to find the plane's crash zone, with one of three ships involved sustaining damage to a tow cable.

So far 105,000 square kilometres (40,500 square miles) of the designated 120,000-square-kilometre seafloor search zone has been covered without success.

If nothing turns up once the area is fully scoured, expected by August, the search will be abandoned, Australia, Malaysia and China - the countries that most of the passengers came from - have jointly said.

Officials from the three countries met in Malaysia this week to further discuss the issue, but the talks wrapped up with no announcements.

As the meeting began on Monday, an international network of MH370 next-of-kin released a statement repeating its call for the search to be extended.

But the ATSB confirmed that consistent with the undertaking made last year, only the agreed 120,000 square kilometres would be searched.

"In the absence of credible new information that leads to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, governments have agreed that there will be no further expansion of the search area," the bureau said.

AFP