Powerful sonar may join jet search; 'object of interest' found

Last Updated 23 April 2014, 11:01 IST

A powerful sonar equipment similar to the one that found the wreck of the Titanic could be deployed in the next phase of the search for the crashed Malaysian jet, officials said today, even as an "object of interest" was recovered on the coast of western Australia.

Defence Minister David Johnston said that powerful sonar equipment will probably be used in the next stage of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that mysteriously disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, including five Indians.

"The next phase, I think, is that we step up with potentially a more powerful, more capable side-scan sonar to do deeper water," Johnston said.

"There will be some issues of costs into the future but this is not about costs," he said.Autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin-21, currently on its 10th mission, has searched nearly 80 per cent of the focused area in the Indian Ocean.

The commercial sonar equipment being considered is similar to the submarines that found the wreck of the Titanic 3,800 metres under the Atlantic Ocean in 1985.

Meanwhile, an "object of interest" has been recovered on the coast of Western Australia, officials said.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan described the object as appearing to be sheet metal with rivets. "It's sufficiently interesting for us to take a look at the photographs," he was quoted as saying by CNN.

But Dolan added strong words of caution: "The more we look at it, the less excited we get."

The 2.5 metre-long object was picked up near Augusta, some 300 kilometres south of Perth. The pictures of the object have also been shared with Malaysian investigation team.

A source with the Australian Defence Force described the object as having rivets on one side with what appears to be a fibreglass coating.

When asked about the shape and scale of the object, the source said it is "kind of rectangular," but torn and misshapen.

Perth-based Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) that is leading the search also acknowledged that some "material" has been found.

"Western Australia Police have attended a report of material washed ashore 10 kilometres east of Augusta and have secured the material," it said on the 47th day of the search.

"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is examining the photographs of the material to determine whether further physical analysis is required and if there is any relevance to the search of missing flight MH370. The ATSB has also provided the photographs to the Malaysian investigation team," it said.

(Published 23 April 2014, 10:54 IST)

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