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Missing flight MH370: Plane debris in Reunion 'very likely' from Boeing 777

Published 30/07/2015

French police officers look over a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island (AP)
French police officers look over a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island (AP)

Aircraft debris found on the French island of Reunion is "very likely" from a Boeing 777 like the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Forensic experts are preparing to examine the remains, washed up on the island in the Indian Ocean, amid speculation it is part of the wreckage from the doomed flight.

Police and gendarmes carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Police and gendarmes carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Police carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
A policeman and a gendarme stand next to a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Policemen and gendarmes stand next to a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. AFP/Getty Images

Flight MH370 was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014 when it vanished with 239 people on board.

The developments are the closest yet into potentially explaining what happened to the aircraft and its crew and passengers.

Malaysia's prime minister Najib Razak said the debris - part of a wing - will be sent to the French mainland for investigation.

He said: " Initial reports suggest that the debris is very likely to be from a Boeing 777, but we need to verify whether it is from flight MH370. At this stage it is too early to speculate.

"To find out as fast as possible, the debris will be shipped by French authorities to Toulouse, site of the nearest office of the BEA, the French authority responsible for civil aviation accident investigations.

"A Malaysian team is on the way to Toulouse now. It includes senior representatives from the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Civil Aviation, the MH370 investigation team, and Malaysia Airlines.

"Simultaneously, a second Malaysian team is travelling to where the debris was found on Reunion.

"The location is consistent with the drift analysis provided to the Malaysian investigation team, which showed a route from the southern Indian Ocean to Africa.


"As soon as we have more information or any verification we will make it public. We have had many false alarms before, but for the sake of the families who have lost loved ones, and suffered such heartbreaking uncertainty, I pray that we will find out the truth so that they may have closure and peace."

British naval experts could yet help in the search for further remains, after David Cameron offered assistance to the Malaysian leader.

In talks with Mr Razak, Mr Cameron extended the offer of support.

The missing Malaysia Airlines plane
The missing Malaysia Airlines plane
A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 reacts at Lido Hotel on March 24, 2014 in Beijing, China
An observer on a Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream aircraft takes photos out of a window during an earlier search for the missing plane (AP)
There have been claims the missing Malaysia Airlines flight was 'thrown around like a fighter jet' in a bid to dodge radar
A Japanese plane leaves an Australian air base in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (AP)
A Korean Air Force P3 Orion returns from the search operation for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 (AP)
A briefing onboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion before take-off to fly to the search zone (AP)
An observer on a Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream aircraft takes photos out of a window while searching for wreckage and debris of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Southern Indian Ocean on April 1, 2014 near Australia. Bad weather and poor visibility caused the search to be called off early with the coast guard plane only completing one of its three 210 nautical mile legs. (Photo by Rob Griffith - Pool via Getty Images)
A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion returns to RAAF Base Pearce after continuing the search for debris or wreckage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on March 26, 2014 in Perth, Australia. The search for flight MH370 resumes today after rough winds and high swells prevented air and sea crews from searching for debris yesterday. (Photo by Rob Griffith - Pool/Getty Images)
Selamat Omar, the father of aviation engineer Mohamad Khairul Amri who was on flight MH370 reads a local newspaper on March 25, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Rahman Roslan/Getty Images)
Chinese relatives of flight MH370 walk towards the Malaysian Embassy on March 25, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion returns to Perth after searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane (AP)
RAAF Navigation / Communications Officer Brittany Sharpe operates from her station onboard an AP-3C Orion whilst on a search mission in the Southern Indian Ocean on March 26, 2014 in Perth, Australia. The search for flight MH370 resumes today after rough winds and high swells prevented crews from searching for debris yesterday. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
The cockpit crew of a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion are pictured upon their return from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean, at RAAF base Pearce on March 26, 2014 in Bullsbrook, Australia. (Photo by Jason Reed - Pool/Getty Images)
Flight Lt. Jayson Nichols shields his face from the sun as he looks out the cockpit of a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft during a search operation of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean, Thursday, March 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Martina, Pool)
Women holds candle during a candle light vigil to remember the victim of the ill-fated flight MH370
Chinese relatives of passengers on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 arrange banners before speaking to reporters at a hotel in Subang Jaya, Malaysia (AP)
International Air Transport Association boss Tony Tyler says it is hard to believe Flight MH370 disappeared (AP)

A British official said: "We have some experts in the MoD who work in mapping, naval surveys and things like that.

"It's not a detailed offer at this stage. If they are interested we will follow up on it."

The source added: "We are offering brainpower not ships."

Dr Erik van Sebille, oceanographer at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said current models mapping the ocean and currents support the theory that the object found on Reunion could be a piece of debris from the flight MH370 wreckage.

He said: "Starting from the spot where the object was found, we used computer simulations to retrace its path and determine where the aircraft might have entered the water 17 months ago.

"The chaotic nature of the ocean means that we can't track the exact location, but we can pin it down to an area a few hundred miles in diameter off the coast of north-western Australia. This location is consistent with the other evidence we have.

"The holy grail now is determining the location of the aircraft's black box, which is believed to be very close to the site of impact. The best way do to this would be to find more pieces of debris and then apply the same simulations to track their origin in the ocean."

Dr David Ferreira, an oceanographer at the University of Reading, said the strong currents of the Indian Ocean could conceivably have pushed debris from the flight several thousand 3-4,000km from the area where it was believed to have gone down.

He said: "This is on the fast side of the range of possibilities, but is still perfectly possible."

A French law enforcement helicopter is scouring the waters around Reunion in hope of spotting more debris like the piece of aircraft wing.

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