WASHINGTON - Malaysia's prime minister said Thursday a piece of airplane wing found on France's Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean belonged to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared without a trace 17 months ago. A French official, meanwhile, said it is likely the wing piece is from MH370, but that experts in Paris must still confirm this.
French, Malaysian and Australian officials on Wednesday began a thorough examination of debris found last week along a beach on Reunion Island, near Madagascar.
Officials already had said the part is a flaperon from the wing of a Boeing 777, the same type of plane that vanished in March 2014 on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Early Thursday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the wing piece is from Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.
"Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a very 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. We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean," said Najib.
French Deputy Prosecutor Serge MacKowiak sounded a more cautious tone, saying there is a "very strong presumption" the piece was part of MH370.
"This strong presumption will be confirmed by supplementary analysis, which will start from tomorrow morning in the laboratory of the general directory of the technical armory,” said MacKowiak.
Steven Saint Amour, an expert in marine and aviation casualty investigations, told VOA via Skype the fact that something from the plane was found on Reunion Island was a "stroke of luck."
"I think it was safe to say that something was going to wash up on shore at some point. But basically you had the issue of a huge coastline and something washing up on the beach, somebody finding it and then recognizing what it was, the significance of this debris and reporting it,” he said.
Despite the finding, Saint Amour said it is probably going to be just as difficult as it was before to find the black box from MH370 in the Indian Ocean.