Malaysia's transport minister said additional airplane parts have been located on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, where a piece of the wing from the missing Malaysian jetliner was recovered last week.
Liow Tiong Lai said the newly found parts include seat cushions, window panes and other debris. But while he concluded the items are plane debris, he could not state with certainty they belonged to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed that a flaperon found on a Reunion Island beach last week was a part of the missing Boeing 777, which disappeared 17 months ago without a trace.
In the 515 days since the plane disappeared, "it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370," Najib grimly said in a televised address.
But experts in Paris, where the part was taken for analysis, are not yet ready to say for sure that what was found on the French territory is part of the vanished plane.
A French prosecutor said there is "strong supposition" it is from MH370, but their findings still have to be confirmed.
Relatives of the passengers, who have been clinging to the tiniest sliver of hope for a happy outcome, say one piece of a wing will not bring them closure.
Family members protest
In Beijing, a group of Chinese relatives of MH370 victims gathered outside Malaysia Airlines office to protest.
"One piece of debris does not mean anything, this is a political conspiracy, we only need the truth, they need to say the truth, please tell us the truth," said Zhang Meiling, whose daughter and son-in-law were on the airliner.
One of the families' biggest concerns is why the announcement was made, even when some have yet to give a final confirmation that the debris indeed belongs to MH370.
“If you don’t have 100 percent (certainty), it is 99.9 percent and that it is still a might be. I don’t know why (Prime Minister) Najib wanted to give such kind of a conclusion in such a hurry,” said Steve Wang, whose mother was on the flight.
The Paris prosecutor's office said late Wednesday there was no new airplane debris from the French island of Reunion, contradicting reports from the Malaysian government.
Another family member who spoke with VOA on condition of anonymity said the decision to make a hurried announcement before France issued a final conclusion is not only irresponsible, but raises questions about Malaysia’s true intentions.
China's foreign ministry on Thursday called on Malaysia to continue investigating what happened to the missing plane, that was carrying mostly Chinese passengers on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Malaysia Airlines put out a statement of condolence to the families and friends of all 239 passengers and crew on the flight.
"It is indeed a major breakthrough for us in resolving this disappearance of MH370. We expect and hope that there would be more objects to be found which would be able to help resolve this mystery."
The debris, a wing part known as a flaperon, was found on Reunion Island, thousands of kilometers away from where the Boeing 777 vanished from radar in March 2014.
Investigators believe the plane crashed somewhere off the southwest coast of Australia, but a search has so far turned up nothing. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday insisted the search would continue.
"We owe it to the hundreds of millions of people who use our skies. We owe it to the 24 million Australians who use our skies, we owe it to them to try to ensure their travel is as safe as it possibly can be to try to get to the bottom of this terrible mystery and that's why the search must go on," Abbott said.
The prime minister said the location of the debris "does seem to indicate that the plane did come down, more or less where we thought."
He said it suggests "for the first time that we might be a little bit closer to solving this baffling mystery."
Theories about what happened to flight MH370 include bad weather, a hijacking, or that the pilot deliberately crashed the jet. But even with the discovery of the debris, the mystery is not close to being solved, according to some analysts.
"The bottom line is that other than finally having a piece of the airplane, the world today doesn't know anything more than it did 10 days ago," the aviation website Leeham News and Comment said.
The outlet said it could be some time before analysis can be done on the stress and tear damage of the flaperon, which could indicate how the plane hit the water. Scientists will also try to determine the type of barnacles that have clung to the debris, it said.
"It will be a while before authorities analyze the barnacles and flaperon. It will be a much longer time before we find the plane – if it ever is found – and longer still to recover any of the wreckage and all-important black boxes," the outlet warned.