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MH370 search yet to yield any high-interest items

Over 100 points of interest have been noted by the search teams hunting for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, but none has been classified as worthy of immediate investigation.

Four vessels are continuing to comb the region calculated to be the most probable location for the missing Boeing 777-200ER, which disappeared almost exactly a year ago.

Over 40% of this priority search area has been covered and the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, which is overseeing the effort, says that “more than 10” features have been classified as “level two” contacts.

“These objects may be man-made but expert analysis of the imagery advises that none of them resembles an aircraft debris field,” it adds.

“Rather, they have been isolated objects, some of which have the dimensions of shipping containers.”

While these contact have been of interest the JACC says they are “still unlikely to be significant to the search”.

More than 100 features on the sea bed have been categorised as “level three”, notable sonar returns which nevertheless have low probabilities of being related to MH370.

The search has yet to find a single “level one” contact, a high-interest feature which would warrant immediate analysis to determine its nature.

MH370 operational search chief Peter Foley, of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, told a transport committee in late February that the organisation was “making preparations” in case the hunt proved successful.

This included assessing expressions of interest after the closing of a tender process for a potential recovery operation. Foley said there had been a “good response” to the tender.

While the JACC expects the current search phase to conclude in May, there is uncertainty over the prospects for an extension should the wreckage remain undetected.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott told the country’s parliament on 5 March that he “can’t promise that the search will go on at this intensity forever”, although he added: “We will continue our very best efforts to resolve this mystery and provide some answers.”

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