Fresh testimonies from a small island community in the Maldives has reignited reports that missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could have crashed over 5000 kilometres away from the official search led by Australian authorities.
Locals from the island of Kudahuvadhoo, located in the southern area of the Dhaalu Atoll in the Maldives, reported witnessing 'a low-flying jumbo jet' on the morning of March 8 last year, when the flight disappeared while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
The reports come as acoustic scientists from Curtin University refuse to rule out the possibility that 'distinctive' data they recorded from the area at the assumed time of the crash may have come from the impact of the aircraft as it hit the Indian Ocean.
Locals from the island of Kudahuvadhoo in the Maldives reported witnessing 'a low-flying jumbo jet' on the morning of March 8 last year when MH370 disappeared
Kudahuvadhoo is located in the southern area of the Dhaalu Atoll, in the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean
Despite an exhaustive search that is underway along a 600 square kilometre arc approximately 1800 kilometres southwest of Perth, locals from the island believe they identified red and blue markings, similar to those of the missing plane, on a large passenger jet which flew over the island on the morning of the MH370's disappearance, reported The Weekend Australian.
Villagers from the community of 3500 claim that many on the island saw the passenger plane, and were interviewed by police and testified with signed statements to what they witnessed.
'I'm very sure of what I saw on a very clear and bright day, and what I saw was not normal- the plane was very big, and low. I did not know until later that other people saw it too. I don't know if it's the Malaysia plane', said Ahmed Shiyaam, 34, an IT manager.
Abdu Rasheed Ibrahim said he saw the plane flying towards him over the water, and did not know at the time that it could be the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.
'I didn't know that a plane was missing. I went straight home and told my wife about it. I told my family, "I saw this strange plane". This is the biggest plane I have ever seen from this island...I have seen pictures of the missing plane- I believe I saw the plane...I strongly felt those people who were searching should come here,' Mr Ibrahim said.
The Maldvies National Defence Force released a statement in March last year which denied that there had been any aircrafts in the area at the time of the disappearance, which locals have branded as an attempt to hide the limitations of their radar facilities.
A local media outlet reported that witnesses claimed the plane was travelling north to southeast, and that the plane was travelling so low it's doors could be seen.
'I've never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We've seen seaplanes, but I'm sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly,' an eyewitness told the website.
Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 disappeared while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board
The search for the missing plane has been headed up by the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre
The search has focused on 60,000 square kilometres of deep ocean off the coast of Western Australia
'It's not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too.'
The plane dropped off the civilian radar after its transponder and other equipment were switched off shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur. It was then tracked by Malaysia’s military radar heading towards the Indian Ocean.
Over the past year, the search for the missing plane by the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, headed by Australia, has focused on 60,000 square kilometres of deep ocean off the coast of Western Australia.
The location of the search was primarily calculated by sophisticated satellite technology which recorded 'pings' or 'electronic handshakes' sent between MH370 and a satellite for the final hours of it's journey.
The flight made a number of unexplained deviations, and flew for several hours in radio silence after it lost contact with Air Traffic Control while flying between Malaysia and Vietnam.
As of early March 40 per cent of the area had been scrutinised, but there have been no sightings of debris on the surface or any clues that the aircraft is lying on the sea bed in region covered so far.
'Based on all available data as well as circumstances ... survivability in the defined area is highly unlikely. It is therefore with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident,' said Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.
Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman declared the crash an accident
Dr Alec Duncan (left) from Curtin University's Centre for Marine Science and Technology began investigating a low-frequency underwater sound signal
The signal was recorded west of Rottnest Island using acoustic recorders (above) at 1:30 am on March 8
The reports from Kudahuvadhoo follow information released from Curtin University that a 'clear acoustic signal' was recorded at a time reasonably consistent with the timeline of the plane's disappearance.
Dr Alec Duncan and his associates from the university's Centre for Marine Science and Technology began investigating a low-frequency underwater sound signal which was recorded west of Rottnest Island just after 1:30 am UTC on March 8.
The Centre, along with United Nations’ Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) and Geoscience Australia were involved in investigating data that might prove helpful to the search, and originally determined that the noise's source was close to the Maldives and Kudahuvadhoo.
'Data from one of the IMOS (Integrated Marine Observing System) recorders showed a clear acoustic signal at a time that was reasonably consistent with other information relating to the disappearance of MH370,' Dr Duncan said in a statement released by Curtin University.
An Indian sand artist created a message of prayer for the missing crew and passengers of the flight
Relatives of the missing passengers of flight MH370 visit a temple in China to pray for their family members
Relatives of passengers of the flight are told the news that MH370 plunged into the sea on March 24, 2014
'The crash of a large aircraft in the ocean would be a high energy event and expected to generate intense underwater sounds.'
Dr Duncan said that the noise may have been due to a geological event, including a small earth tremor, but the timing piqued the interest of his research team.
'It would be more correct to say that our team has identified an approximate possible location for the origin of a noise that is probably of geological origin, but cannot be ruled out as being connected with the loss of MH370,' he told The Weekend Australian.
In early March, Malaysia's transport minister, Liow Tiong Lai, said that data will be re-examined and a new plan formulated if the plane is not found by the end of May.