The Australian government said Sunday that a new piece of debris found on a Mauritian island last week will be examined by officials to see if it came from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The discovery comes as several suspected plane debris were found over the last few weeks near South Africa.
The piece, which Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester described as an “item of interest,” was reportedly found on Rodrigues Island, about 350 miles east of the main island of Mauritius, by tourists. The owner of a hotel who saw the debris said the wreckage bore a design and resembled the interiors of a plane, according to BBC.
“The Malaysian Government is working with officials from Mauritius to seek to take custody of the debris and arrange for its examination,” Chester said, in a statement Sunday. “This debris is an item of interest however until the debris has been examined by experts it is not possible to ascertain its origin.”
An underwater search for the missing Flight MH370 has been ongoing for more than two years in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean with no concrete clues as to the whereabouts of the plane. In July 2015, a flaperon belonging to Flight MH370 turned up on the French-controlled Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean.
After months of search, which has cost nearly $70 million, several suspected plane wreckage have been spotted in Mozambique and South Africa.
Last week, the Malaysian transport ministry said that two pieces of debris found in the southeast African nation of Mozambique were “consistent with panels” from a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft.
“The dimensions, materials and construction of both parts conform to the specifications of a Boeing 777 aircraft,” the investigation team said in a statement. “The paint and stenciling on both parts match those used by Malaysia Airlines.”
Following the announcement, Malaysian authorities said they have sent search teams to Mozambique and South Africa to arrange a more thorough and calculated search for signs of Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Australia, which is leading the search for the missing Boeing 777-200 jet, said Sunday that more than 36,680 sq. miles of the total 46,332 sq. miles of designated search area has been scoured by four vessels. The search operation is expected to be called off in June.
“As we continue the search in the days and months ahead, we remain hopeful the aircraft will be found,” Chester said.