[SYDNEY] Malaysia's government cautioned against speculating about the location of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after a chunk of metal was found off southern Thailand.
The barnacle-encrusted debris, measuring about 2m by 3m, was found by fishermen on Jan 23 off the country's east coast in the Gulf of Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported. Electrical wires hung off the curved piece of metal, which was stamped with numbers in several places, the newspaper said.
Australian authorities, who are hunting for the wreckage of MH370 in the Indian Ocean thousands of kilometres to the south, said they're waiting for the results of any investigation by Thai and Malaysian authorities into the reported discovery. In a sign of the difficulty of the search, one of the vessels combing the sea floor lost its deep-sea sonar vehicle on Sunday.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, speaking to reporters Sunday, said he's sending a team from the Department of Civil Aviation to inspect the piece of metal. According to Malaysia's state news agency Bernama, the Thai air force is taking the debris to Bangkok.
"We should not speculate on any of the outcomes," Mr Liow said. "Leave it to the experts." Thai army aviation officials believe the debris is probably from an aircraft, according to the Post.
In the two years since the aircraft went missing, the only solid evidence has been a wing component that washed up in July on Reunion Island. That was west of the search zone in the Indian Ocean, but consistent with the Australian team's estimates of the affect of currents.
Flight 370 was en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur in March 2014 when it disappeared with 239 people on board. Investigators concluded that someone on board intentionally disabled the aircraft's tracking devices, and the jet turned south before plunging into the sea off Australia's western coast.
Australia said Monday it lost the sonar vehicle, known as a towfish, when it collided with a mud volcano rising 2,200m from the ocean floor. The collision left the device and 4,500m of cable on the seabed, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement.
The ship carrying the device, the Fugro Discovery, is returning to port in Western Australia for more cable.