Debris washed up on a West Australian beach is being examined by authorities to determine if it is from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Perth-based search coordinators said on Wednesday afternoon the material washed ashore 10 kilometres east of Augusta, about 320km south of Perth.
The items are being held by Busselton police, who are awaiting instructions from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
The Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre (JACC), led by former defence chief Angus Houston, said the ATSB was studying photographs of the material and had also passed on the images to the Malaysian investigation team.
But WA police warned against jumping to conclusions, saying items of interest had been previously reported after washing up on a WA beach and had turned out to be unrelated to MH370.
ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan also played down the find, which he said appeared to be sheet metal with rivets.
“It’s sufficiently interesting for us to take a look at the photographs,” Mr Dolan told CNN.
“The more we look at it, the less excited we get.”
The search for the plane continues in a vast area of the Indian Ocean northwest of Perth and authorities have previously said it’s more likely the prevailing currents would take debris west toward Africa rather than east to the Australian coast.
Earlier on Wednesday, Defence Minister David Johnston said Australia was consulting with Malaysia, China and the United States on the next phase of the search.
The autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin-21 has scoured more than 80 per cent of the search area, centred about 855km northwest of Perth, with no items of interest discovered to date.
The Bluefin-21 is focusing on a circular area with a radius of 10km.
If the device turned up nothing, the operation would turn to more advanced side-scan sonar technology, which would be able to go deeper than the Bluefin-21, Senator Johnston said.
The Bluefin-21 loses some scanning effectiveness in water depths greater than 4.5 kilometres, but has plunged almost 4.7km on a recent mission.
While the Bluefin-21 had less than one-fifth of the seabed search area to complete, Senator Johnston estimated its mission would take another two weeks.
There are suggestions more powerful towed side-scan sonar technology, similar to that which found the Titanic in 3.8km-deep waters in the Atlantic Ocean in 1985, could soon be deployed.
The same system was used to find HMAS Sydney in 2008, which was located north of the MH370 search area.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted the search would continue while there was a reasonable hope of finding something.
“Australia will not rest until we have done everything we humanly can to get to the bottom of this mystery,” he told reporters.
The Bluefin-21 is focusing on a circular area with a radius of 10km where the second acoustic signal was picked up by a towed pinger locator on April 8. Acoustic signals were also picked up in the vicinity on April 5.
JACC said the area remained the best lead.
“It is important this lead is pursued to its completion so we can either confirm or discount the focused underwater area as the final resting place of MH370. This is clearly of great importance to the families of those on board,” JACC told AAP.
The Boeing 777 went missing on March 8 with 239 people on board.
Malaysian authorities said a report on the items found near Augusta had been received, but there had been no verification of whether they were part of the missing flight.
Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said insights from Jean Paul Troadec, a key expert in the two-year search for wreckage from the 2009 Air France crash, and experience from the 1997 Silk Air crash, would be considered in determining the approach to the next phase of the search.
“When we have to regroup and restrategise, it’s a matter of looking at all the data, whether it is satellite, whether it is radar, and that is very important as we chart our next course,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
“Those are the sort of things we will be looking at in identifying the possibility of other locations, but that will be part and parcel of the whole work in progress.”