A330 search teams yet to confirm origin of retrieved debris

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South Atlantic search efforts to locate the missing Air France Airbus A330 have yet to positively confirm any wreckage as having come from the jet, but have retrieved a piece of debris identified as an air cargo pallet.

Three Brazilian naval vessels have arrived in the search area - a frigate, which is acting as a co-ordination post, plus a corvette and a patrol boat. These craft are searching a region with a 120nm (220km) radius, with the frigate assigning the nearest vessel to any new debris sightings from the air.

The frigate is also equipped with a Westland Lynx helicopter for close examination of objects. "So far there is no positive identification of any wreckage," says the Brazilian Navy.

But the Brazilian Air Force says that Lynx has been used to retrieve an air cargo pallet, about 2.5m² in size, following a sighting by a Lockheed C-130 search crew about 550km from the Fernando de Noronha islands.

Other debris has been sighted by the air force's Embraer R-99 aircraft in the region of the St Peter and St Paul archipelago.

While three merchant ships in the area have been able to offer temporary assistance, they have had to resume their voyages, but another frigate and a tanker are due to arrive in the next few days.

Brazil's air search is also receiving assistance from a French Air Force Boeing E-3F airborne warning and control aircraft out of Dakar, and the French Government has also made Dassault Falcon 50 and Atlantique maritime aircraft available.