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Air France and Airbus are financing the estimated $12.5 million cost of the new, fourth search effort that started last month, but the government will fund the retrieval effort. About $28 million already was spent on the three previous searches for the jet’s wreckage.

The team involved in this weekend’s discovery was led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, based in Cape Cod, Mass.

The search is being targeted in an area of about 3,900 square miles, several hundred miles off Brazil’s northeastern coast.

Searchers are using up to three autonomous underwater search vehicles, each of which can stay underwater for up to 20 hours while using sonar to scan a mountainous area known as the Mid-Ocean Ridge. Researchers download the data, and a vehicle with a high resolution camera is sent to check out an area if scientists see evidence of debris.

Air France welcomed the announcement that part of the plane has been found.

“This discovery … is good news indeed since it gives hope that information on the causes of the accident, so far unresolved, will be found,” the airline said in a statement.

Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.