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MH370: France launches week-long search for more debris

Published 07/08/2015

Relatives of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 passengers kneel down in front of the media ahead of a briefing given by the airlines outside a help centre in Beijing. (AP)
Relatives of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 passengers kneel down in front of the media ahead of a briefing given by the airlines outside a help centre in Beijing. (AP)

A French search plane has lifted off for a birds-eye view of Reunion Island, seeking any more potential debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

French authorities said they have launched a one-week operation with boats and aircraft scouring the Indian Ocean island, where a wing fragment was discovered nine days ago.

Malaysian officials say it came from the missing Boeing 777 but investigators from other countries are being more cautious.

The prefect of the French overseas department, Dominique Sorain, said the search would cover an area 75 miles by 25 miles around the east coast - where the two-metre wing fragment was found.

Mr Sorain said other objects have been found on the island's beaches since last week and have been removed for examination, but officials do not know if they came from a plane.

There remains a difference of opinion between Malaysian officials and their counterparts in France, the US and Australia over whether the wing part, known as a flaperon, was definitely from Flight 370.

In Beijing, about 30 Chinese relatives of Flight 370 passengers marched to the Malaysian Embassy hoping to talk to an official about why Malaysia confirmed the part came from the plane when French investigators had not. They scuffled briefly with police, who blocked the relatives from approaching the mission.

Some criticism came from within Malaysia itself. Opposition policymaker Liew Chin Tong said in a statement that transport minister Liow Tiong Lai must explain "the haste and hurry" to declare the wreckage came from Flight 370.

"A quick conclusion will not do justice to the next of kin of the victims," he said.

An official in prime minister Najib Razak's office said the Malaysian government owes it to the public and the families of those on the plane to reveal what it knows and to deliver the news first.

"It is our plane and we know it best. Since the French is the investigating team here, they do not want to take our word for it and they want to do more tests - that is fine with us," the official said. "We are accustomed to criticism from day one, but please give us credit because we are doing our best to cope with this."

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and its 239 passengers and crew disappeared on March 8 last year on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Officials believe it crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all aboard, but the wreckage and the cause remain elusive despite a vast search led by Australia.

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