Does this belong to missing MAS jet?
INVESTIGATORS scrambled yesterday to study the plane wreckage that washed up on a tiny Indian Ocean island, fuelling hopes that one of aviation's greatest enigmas could finally be solved - the mystery of missing Flight MH370.
The 2m-long piece of wreckage was found on the French island of La Reunion, offering bittersweet hope of closure to the families of 239 people who disappeared in March last year on the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Boeing 777.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the debris, believed to be part of a wing, was "very likely to be from a Boeing 777, but we need to verify whether it is from Flight MH370".
As French air transport police studied the debris and experts from Malaysia headed to the scene, the authorities warned against jumping to conclusions.
"Whatever wreckage is found needs to be further verified before we can confirm whether it belongs to MH370," Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters in New York.
Flight MH370 was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when its communication system was mysteriously switched off and it vanished on March 8 last year.
Officials on La Reunion said France's civil aviation investigating authority, BEA, has been asked to coordinate an international probe into the origin of the debris.
What appeared to be a piece of luggage was discovered in the same place as the wreckage, adding to the mystery.
Relatives of MH370 passengers from China have demanded a speedy confirmation of whether the wreckage found on La Reunion belongs to the missing jetliner.
"We don't want to hear an official giving 99 per cent guarantee. We want 100 per cent confirmation!" they said in a statement.
But Jiang Hui, 41, a representative of the families' group, said that even if the wreckage does belong to MH370, it does not mean the plane crashed there.
The authorities involved in the search at sea believe it eventually went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
But no confirmed physical evidence has been found and the Malaysian authorities in January declared that all on board were presumed dead.
Excitement over the discovery was tempered by suggestions that it could be from other planes that had gone down in the region, including a South African Airways Boeing 747 that crashed near the island of Mauritius in 1987, killing all 159 people on board.
La Reunion lies about 4,000km from the area considered the most likely impact zone, but experts said it could have drifted there.
"From the information that we know about the oceanography and our computer modelling, it is completely consistent with the possible path of the debris originating from the current search area," said Charitha Pattiaratchi, an oceanographer with the University of Western Australia.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE STRAITS TIMES