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PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia – Relatives of people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared four years ago presented five pieces of possible plane debris to the government on Friday and called for a renewed search for the missing jet.
The Boeing 777 jet vanished with 239 people aboard while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. So far only fragments have washed ashore, and two massive ocean searches have been called off.
Grace Nathan, whose mother Anne Daisy was on the flight, said the new debris was found by villagers in Madagascar over the past two years as part of a privately funded search. She said one of the pieces has a readable label and is believed to be a floor panel from the plane.
She urged the government to find more plane debris that could be either buried in sand or floating in waters off Africa to help shed light on one of aviation's greatest mysteries. She also said many private companies are willing to help find the jet on a "no cure, no fee" basis.
"Why should we turn a blind eye to evidence washing up on the shores? It should be looked at as a jigsaw puzzle. The more we have, the more we can learn," she said. "I think the government should be more open to allow (private companies) to continue to search."
Nathan and a few other relatives in the Voice 370 group representing families of those on the plane handed over the debris to Transport Minister Anthony Loke.
Loke said the debris will be verified by investigators but the government is only open to continuing the search if there is credible evidence of the plane's location.
American wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson said the debris has been inspected by independent experts, who believe it is from a Boeing 777 plane. The piece that may be a floor panel indicates the plane may have shattered on impact and that there is no intact fuselage underwater, he said.
Malaysia signed a "no cure, no fee" deal with U.S.-based Ocean Infinity in January to resume the hunt for the plane, a year after the official search of the southern Indian Ocean by Australia, Malaysia and China was called off. But the second search was halted at the end of May after it found nothing.
A Malaysian-led independent investigation report released in July highlighted shortcomings in the government's response to the plane's disappearance, including lapses by air traffic control and a failure to swiftly initiate an emergency response and monitor radar continuously. It also raised the possibility of "intervention by a third party" and reiterated Malaysia's assertion the plane was deliberately diverted and flown for over seven hours after severing communications.
The report said there was insufficient information to determine if the aircraft broke up in the air or during an impact with the ocean.