Kuala Lumpur | Wreckage washed up on a remote Indian Ocean island is very likely from a Boeing 777, the same model as MH370 that mysteriously vanished over a year ago with 239 people including five Indians on board, and will be sent to France to determine whether it is from the same plane.
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, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak wrote on his Facebook page today. Malaysia’s Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi earlier said it was almost certain that the wreckage was from a Boeing 777 aircraft.
The statements come a day after members of a local clean- up association found a 2.7-metres long and 0.9-metre wide flaperon, a wing component, on the French island of La Reunion off the east coast of Africa. Part of a bag with closed zip was found near the debris today, fuelling speculation it may be from the ill-fated Boeing 777-200 of Malaysia Airlines that went off radars on March 8, 2014, one hour into the flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
Australia, that is leading the search for the plane in a remote patch of the Indian Ocean far off the country’s west coast, is treating this as a major lead. It’s the first real evidence that there is a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found, said Warren Truss, Australia’s Transport and Infrastructure Minister, who also described the sighting of the debris as a very important development.
The latest discovery of the debris could rest all speculation in one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history and finally determine the fate of the people on board. In January, Malaysia declared the disappearance of the plane as an accident and all people on board as presumed dead. The wreckage would be shipped to Toulouse by French authorities where it will be examined by the BEA, France’s civil aviation authority, Najib said.
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. 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, he said.
A second Malaysian team is travelling to where the debris was found on Reunion, Najib said, adding that 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.
France’s air crash investigation agency is studying a piece of the flaperon, a part of the wing used to manage the lift and control the roll of an aircraft. A witness described the debris as encrusted with shells. US investigators concluded that it came from a Boeing 777 airplane, raising the odds that it belongs to MH370. Investigators have been probing sabotage, hijack, terrorism and other angles that led to the disappearance of the plane.
If confirmed, it would be the first true sighting of the plane that also had Indians Chetna Kolekar, Swanand Kolekar, Suresh Kolekar, Chandrika Sharma and Prahlad Shirsatha aboard. Truss said it was feasible that debris could have floated to the French island of La Reunion, about 4,000 kilometres from the area considered the most likely impact zone.
Local government officials on La Reunion said in a statement that no theory is being ruled out, including that it comes from a Boeing 777. According to a source close to the investigation, there is a unique element to the Boeing 777′s flaperon that Boeing observers believe they are seeing in photos though the observations are preliminary at the moment.
Najib also warned against any premature speculation, saying 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. I promise the families of those lost that whatever happens, we will not give up, he wrote.
The transport ministry also said in a statement that the debris cannot be confirmed as a piece of the MH370 until there is tangible and irrefutable evidence and that it would be premature to speculate at this juncture that the flaperon does belong to the missing aircraft. The Ministry said it did not want to raise false hopes for the families of the victims. Malaysia Airlines said it remained too premature for the airline to speculate (on) the origin of the flaperon.
K S Narendran, whose wife was on the plane, said he was reticent to call the discovery a major development. I think this is very early days yet. All we know is that a small part has been found. It is still a little early to suggest it does belong to MH370, he told CNN.
China, whose nationals formed over 150 of the 239 people on board the MH370, said it is verifying the reports of discovery of the wreckage. We have noticed the reports and are wasting no time in obtaining and checking the information, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a press release.
Families of the Chinese passengers said in a statement in Beijing that they were more concerned about the whereabouts of their loved ones and hoped that the search for the plane would continue as promised by the authorities regardless of whether the debris belonged to MH370.
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