Debris offers uncertain hope in MH370 hunt

Debris offers uncertain hope in MH370 hunt

Investigators are confident that a piece of debris found on an Indian Ocean island is from a Boeing plane of the same type as missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 but how much help the discovery will be to the ongoing search remains to be seen.

Malaysian transport officials are on their way to the remote island of Reunion, off the east coast of Africa, after the discovery of the large piece that might be a wing flap from a Boeing 777 passenger jet – the same type as MH370.

Australian authorities are working to identify the 2m-long piece found washed ashore and have cautioned that may take some time.

US air safety investigators reportedly have a “high degree of confidence” that the piece is a “flaperon” from the trailing edge of the wing of a Boeing 777.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Thursday it is too early to make assessments about whether the item is a part of the lost aircraft.

“But it certainly is an interesting discovery,” Mr Truss told reporters.

Mr Truss said if the wreckage was identified as being from MH370 it would be consistent with other analysis and modelling that the plane is in the southern Indian Ocean.

But Malaysia Airlines says it is “premature” to speculate on whether wreckage found in the Indian Ocean is from missing flight MH370, as authorities scrambled to verify the origin of the debris.

“At the moment, it would be too premature for the airline to speculate (on) the origin of the flaperon,” Malaysia Airlines said in a statement.

It said it was working with “relevant authorities to confirm the matter”.

Earlier, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said his government had sent a team to examine the find, while also cautioning against jumping to conclusions.

MH370 vanished at night over the South China Sea after mysteriously diverting from its north-bound route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

Authorities involved in an Australian-led search believe it went down in the southern Indian Ocean. To date an Australian-led search has covered 55,000 square kilometres of sea floor, in a search area of 120,000 square kilometres.


But no physical evidence of the wreckage has ever been found in one of aviation’s great mysteries, and Malaysian authorities in January declared that all on board were presumed dead.

Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation Director-General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said his agency would meet on Thursday with the country’s transport ministry, foreign ministry, and Malaysia Airlines to discuss “next steps”.

“But first we need to verify whether this part belongs to MH370. We have to look at it,” he said.

Malaysian authorities could not offer an estimate of when experts might be able to definitively determine whether the part is from MH370.

Danica Weeks, the wife of MH370 victim Paul Weeks, said news of the discovery raised hopes of solving the mystery but also that she was clinging to a “minute hope” that passengers may have survived.

Ms Weeks told The Daily Mail she still had “minute hope they may be coming home, which you hold onto with no evidence”.

“On the other side, if it’s a piece of a plane we might be able to solve the mystery and bring him home and do what’s right for him,” she said.

News of the discovery was painful for families in Malaysia, too.

Jacquita Gonzales, whose husband Patrick Gomes was MH370’s cabin crew supervisor, told AFP she had “been on the roller coaster many times”.

“We have mixed feelings. If this is true, at least I know I can have peace and give my husband a proper send-off,” Ms Gonzales said.

“But part of us still hopes they are out there alive somewhere.”

Mr Truss said the debris was not in Australia’s search and rescue area so investigations would be led by Malaysian officials.

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