As Malaysian authorities prepare to send a team of experts to analyse debris found washed ashore on several islands in the Maldives, experts have cast doubt on the possibility that the parts could be wreckage from the missing Malaysian flight MH370.
Islanders from Kaafu atoll Vahbinfaru, Baa atoll Fehendhoo, Baa atoll Fulhadhoo in the central Maldives and Haa Alif Uligan in the north have all reported finding pieces of debris suspected to be parts of the Boeing 777 aircraft that disappeared on March 8, 2014 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
Maldives Civil Aviation Authority (MCAU) chief Hussain Jaleel confirmed that a Malaysian team is due to arrive in Maldives for investigation. A date is not confirmed and details on how the investigation will be conducted are not yet known.
The wreckage has been brought to Malé and is being stored at a warehouse.
On March 8, 2014, the same day MH370 disappeared, locals of Dhaalu atoll Kudahuvadhoo reported spotting a low-flying plane with similar colours to that of the missing flight.
However, the Maldivian authorities said that the rumoured sightings of Malaysian flight MH370 over Kudahuvadhoo were false.
Islanders on Fehendhoo, nearby Fulhadhoo and Uligan in the north described the debris as an 8-feet long rectangular shaped object with styrofoam on the inside and hard metal-like material on the outside. The pieces were discovered after plane debris was found on Reunion.
Abdulla Rasheed, a captain of a barge that sank in Baa atoll last February, told newspaper Haveeru that the debris found washed ashore in Baa atoll is a shipment of wall panels for resort construction.
“The debris has smudges of paint that was in the barge. I am confident that they are items from the barge,” he said.
Three crew members drowned. Two including Rasheed survived the storm.
However, Abu Bakuru Jauhary, from Universal Company, which owned the barge and the shipment that sank, told Maldives Independent that it is unlikely the debris were goods from the sunken barge.
“I have not actually seen the debris but I know what the wall panels from the barge looks like. The panels are 20-feet long and 4-feet wide. I don’t think they are wreckage from the barge,” he said.
Debris was found on Vabbinfaru in late May, and consisted of aluminum. Staff at the resort did not report the find until the discovery of debris on Reunion.
Meanwhile, coastal oceanography expert Professor Charitha Pattiaratchy from the University of Western Australia told News.com.au that “it would be a big conundrum to see stuff in Reunion as well as Maldives”.
He suggested that it was impossible to have debris washing up on both side of the equator.
“If the debris originated from where we’re talking about in the southern hemisphere, none of it actually goes northwards. It can’t cross the hemispheres because of the wind and the current patterns,” he said.
President’s office minister Mohamed “Mundhu” Shareef told The AFP that defence radar and surveillance data check showed no unidentified vessel had entered Maldives.
“We checked radar data and other information from that day and the answer was negative. There was no big jet liner over that area and we shared that information with the Malaysian authorities,” Shareef said.
However, locals maintain that they saw a low flying plane similar to MH370 on the morning it disappeared.
“I went for a ride with a child that morning. When it flew over he wanted to look at it and I saw it was flying lower than usual,” one local told the Maldives Independent.
“I did not really look to see that well. But after I looked at the photos of MH370 I saw that it was very similar to the plane I saw that morning.”