MH370 families reject conclusion on debris

KUALA LUMPUR, August 12

An MH370 families’ organisation said on Wednesday it would not accept the Malaysian government’s declaration that wreckage found on an Indian Ocean island came from the ill-fated flight until more analysis is completed, and called for an impartial investigation.

The statement by Voice 370, an international next-of-kin group, adds to doubts over the debris that have been expressed already by a number of individual family members.

“Needless to say, most families have refused to accept the Malaysian verdict, and are awaiting a more definite and conclusive analysis,” the group said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced last week that a wing part known as a flaperon, which washed up on the French island of Reunion, had been confirmed by experts in France as part of MH370.

Najib called it proof of his government’s assertion that the jet met a disastrous end somewhere in the Indian Ocean, a position backed by many aviation experts.

But many MH370 family members remain deeply suspicious of Malaysia’s handling of the aviation enigma and have rejected that conclusion, with some still harbouring the belief that the plane landed safely somewhere.

Voice 370 said Malaysia was the only party to have conclusively stated that the Reunion wreckage was from MH370.

French authorities have said there was a “very high probability” that the debris was linked to the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.

MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew, triggering one of aviation’s greatest mysteries. A search operation — the biggest in history — is still ongoing in the southern Indian Ocean.

Experts in France are examining the flaperon for any clues into what may have caused the aircraft to inexplicably veer off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Authorities in Reunion, the island nation of Mauritius, and elsewhere in the Indian Ocean also have announced stepped-up vigilance for possible debris. No further results of the flaperon analysis have been released, nor has any other debris been confirmed as from MH370.

Malaysia’s government and the state flag carrier have faced intense criticism from next-of-kin who accuse both of a fumbled response to the jet’s disappearance, confusing statements, and failing to share information with relatives, charges that have been denied. Voice 370 said families remain “apprehensive” about Malaysia’s handling of the issue, and have “doubts about their expertise, capabilities and intentions”.

It called for all potential MH370 debris to “be analysed at a reputable place with the appropriate expertise and equipment”, including possibly the French government or air-safety authorities from other “advanced nations”.

Australian authorities leading the search of the southern Indian Ocean seafloor for MH370 wreckage, along with other experts, believe the flaperon likely came from MH370.

The search operation’s headquarters said in a statement on Wednesday that it was “in all probability” from MH370.

Malaysia has said certain characteristics of the wing fragment, including its paint, matched MH370 maintenance records.

Scientists have also said barnacles on the flaperon could indicate how long it was in the water, and perhaps where it had been, information that could help to narrow the current massive search zone.

Search crews hope to locate a crash site and recover the plane’s data recorders, which would be analysed for clues on the cause of the disaster.

Malaysian experts in Maldives

COLOMBO, August 12

Three Malaysian aviation experts began examining debris today found in the Maldives to determine if it could be wreckage from flight MH370, a minister said.

The Maldives joined a regional search for wreckage from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight after islanders spotted unidentified debris washed up along the northern atolls of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Mohamed Shareef said the three, led by director general of civil aviation Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, met with local authorities and inspected the debris after arriving on the islands on Tuesday night.

“They have today officially started investigating the debris found in the Maldives,” Shareef, a minister attached to the president’s office, told AFP over phone from the capital island Male.

He said the experts would return to Malaysia later today before reporting to their Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai.

The plane was carrying 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared in March 2014 after inexplicably veering off course. It is believed to have gone down in the southern Indian Ocean region.

The search acquired fresh impetus when Malaysia last week said a wing part that washed ashore on the French island of Reunion came from the aircraft.

After that discovery, the Malaysian authorities alerted nearby Madagascar and South Africa to be on the lookout, saying it was possible debris would wash up in those locations.

Mauritius has also joined the search.