Missing Malaysian airliner MH370 is the only 777 ever to be lost in the southern hemisphere and Malaysian experts have been sent to Reunion Island to investigate debris washed up on a beach.
The wreckage washed up on the island, off the coast of Madagascar could be that of missing airlines MH370.
Experts have identified the wreckage, discovered on Wednesday, as a flaperon, which is part of a commercial airliners wing.
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss (above) said “we are treating this as a major lead, and seeking to get assurance about what has been found and whether it is in indeed linked to the disappearance of MH370.”
Malaysia’s Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said “”It is almost certain that the flaperon is from a Boeing 777 aircraft. Our chief investigator here told me this.”
Malaysia Airlines was operating the Boeing 777 that vanished without a trace in March last year while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. The plane was carrying 239 passengers and crew.
Read more: The hunt for Flight MH370
A joint statement from the French Justice Ministry and the Reunion prefecture said “no hypothesis can be ruled out”.
On Thursday morning, according to a Reunion news website, Linfo.re, a suitcase was also found, in very poor condition, on the same stretch of beach. It has been taken for examination.
— Antoine Forestier (@a_forestier) July 30, 2015
In the twenty years since the plane came into operation there have been four serious accidents involving 777s. Only MH370 is thought to have crashed south of the equator, giving rise to speculation that this debris could be that of the missing jet.
Oceanographers say vast, rotating currents sweeping the southern Indian Ocean could have deposited wreckage from MH370 thousands of miles from where the plane is thought to have crashed.
The discovery will bring fresh hope to families desperate to know what happened to the ill-fated airliner.
It has been reported that the Malaysian team sent to investigate could take up to two days to confirm if the debris was that from the missing airliner, but Australia’s deputy prime minister Warren Truss said a number should be stamped on the part which should help quick identification.
If it was confirmed the part came from MH370, experts will try to retrace the debris drift back to where it could have come from using oceanic data. However Mr Truss added: “this wreckage has been in the water, if it is MH370, for well over a year so it could have moved so far that it’s not going to be that helpful in pinpointing precisely where the aircraft is.”
A statement from the Malaysian ministry of transport urges caution so that “we do not raise false hope.”
They said: “until there is tangible and irrefutable evidence that the flaperon does belong to the missing aircraft, it would be premature to speculate at this juncture.”