An unidentified object found on a beach in Western Australia is not associated with the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that mysteriously disappeared nearly seven weeks ago, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, or ATSB, confirmed Thursday, while a remote-controlled submarine scouring the Indian Ocean for signs of the plane was about to complete its mission without having unearthed any useful leads.
ATSB reached its conclusion by examining forensic photographs of the debris supplied by the West Australian Police, which officials had previously called an “object of interest,” that was found six miles east of the town of Augusta near the southwestern tip of Australia. Meanwhile, Bluefin-21, the underwater drone searching for the plane in a six miles radius around signals detected in the ocean on April 8, has completed 90 percent of its search area, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, or JACC, said in a statement Thursday.
"After careful and detailed examination by investigative experts, our assessment is that the material is highly unlikely to be related to MH370 and will not be used in the search for the missing aircraft,” Martin Dolan, ATSB chief commissioner, said in a statement. “We also passed the photographs to the Malaysian authorities, who are leading the investigation.”
A total of 11 military aircraft and 11 ships would assist the search Thursday, the JACC said in a statement, adding that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has planned a search area of about 19,138 square miles, with the center of the search area lying about 985 miles northwest of Perth. Officials will assess weather conditions before continuing with air-search operations as a weather system, earlier known as Tropical Cyclone Jack, moves south, the statement said.
The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight, with 239 people on board, disappeared shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, triggering a massive, international search effort involving dozens of countries and agencies.