Malaysia said last night it was investigating a claim by an Australian firm that it had potentially discovered the wreckage of flight MH370 - some 5,000 kilometres from where search teams have been focusing their efforts.
Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia was working to "assess the credibility of this information", after the company said it had identified in the ocean chemical elements used in the construction of aircraft.
GeoResonance told Australia's 7News that it had used hi-tech equipment to scan more than two million square kilometres of ocean before identifying an area in the Bay of Bengal containing "aluminium, titanium, copper, steel alloys and other materials".
The company's David Pope said the team had been "very excited when we found what we believe to be the wreckage of a commercial airliner".
He said the team then verified its findings by analysing images of the area taken three days prior to the crash.
"The wreckage wasn't there prior to the disappearance of MH370," Pope told 7News.
The GeoResonance website states the firm can "detect the nuclei of targeted substances" at depths of up to 5,000 metres.
The Boeing 777, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished more than seven weeks ago with 239 people on board. Search teams have concentrated their efforts on an area of ocean off the west coast of Australia.
Hishammuddin said: "The fact that MH370 still has not been found underscores the complexity and difficulty of this search operation.
"Malaysia will discuss with our international counterparts, including Australia, how the new search operation … will proceed."
Malaysia said last night it had hired the former director-general of the civil aviation department, Kok Soo Chon, to lead an international team tasked with determining the cause of the plane's disappearance.
Air accident specialists from China, the US and Britain are among team members, along with representatives of Boeing and satellite firm Inmarsat.
Hishammuddin said the team's main purpose was to "determine the actual cause of the incident so similar incidents could be avoided in the future".