A piece of wreckage washed up on a beach in the Indian Ocean could be part of the doomed Malaysian Airlines jet MH370 which vanished in 2014, it has emerged.
The two-metre-long piece of wreckage, which seemed to be part of a wing, was found by people cleaning up a beach in La Reunion, east of Madagascar.
One witness said: ‘It was covered in shells, so one would say it had been in the water a long time.’
French air transport officials have already opened a probe to investigate where the wreckage could have come from.
The two-metre-long section was found more than 3,800 miles away from where the missing Boeing 777 was last seen. It is also more than 3,000 miles from where the main underwater search for wreckage is taking place, off the coast of Australia.
France TV said the object was recovered by a group of workers cleaning a beach on La Reunion, who reported the discovery to authorities who alerted air crash investigators.
Xavier Tytelman, an expert in aviation security, said it could not be ruled out that the wreckage belonged to MH370, which vanished without trace in March last year.
No part 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.
The plane disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Tytelman noted that local media photos showed ‘incredible similarities between a #B777 flaperon and the debris found,’ refering to a Boeing 777 – the type of plane that disappeared.
He also noted a reference on the wreckage: BB670.He added: ‘This code is not a plane’s registration number, nor serial number. However… it’s clear that this reference would allow a quick identification. In a few days, we will have a definitive answer.’ Eric Chesneau, a French air transport police officer urged caution following today’s discovery.
He said: ‘People are getting ahead of themselves over this. It is more than likely plane debris, (but) we don’t know what exact part it may be.’
No trace has been found of the Boeing 777, which disappeared in March last year carrying 239 passengers and crew from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing, in what has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. Most of the passengers were Chinese.
Search efforts led by Australia have focused on a broad expanse of the southern Indian Ocean.
Neither the French civil aviation authority DGAC nor the BEA, the agency responsible for investigating aviation accidents, were immediately available for comment.
Reports among the aircraft community suggested that the MH17’s manufacturer, Boeing, is sending experts to La Reunion to help identify the piece of wreckage.
However, the company said if could not confirm whether engineers were en-route, but added that it remained ‘committed to supporting the MH370 investigation and the search for the airplane’.
The airline manufacturer said: ‘We continue to share our technical expertise and analysis. Our goal, along with the entire global aviation industry, continues to be not only to find the airplane, but also to determine what happened – and why.’
The debris appears to be part of a wing and was taken onto the island, a French department, this morning, according to Adjutant Christian Retournat.
‘It is way too soon to say whether or not it is MH370. We just found the debris this morning in the coast of Saint Andre,’ Retournat told CNN Wednesday.
The flat, white hunk of metal is almost certainly a part of an airplane wing. More specifically, Metro reports it is that of a Boeing 777, the same model plane as MH370, which went down after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8, 2014 en route to Beijing with 239 aboard.
An Australian-led operation has scoured more than 19,000 square miles of the seafloor, about 60 per cent of a search zone in the Indian Ocean that was determined via expert analysis of signals from MH370 that were detected by a satellite.
However the four search vessels towing 10-kilometre cables fitted with sophisticated sonar systems that scan the seabed have turned up little except shipping containers and a previously uncharted shipwreck.
Rough weather, the pitch-black extreme depths of up to 4,000 metres, and the rugged nature of the previously unmapped seafloor have made for a slow, frustrating search.
Angry next of kin have criticised Malaysia’s handling of the plane’s disappearance, and have questioned the choice to focus the search on the southern Indian Ocean.
With the search proving fruitless, speculation on the fate of the plane remains focused primarily on a possible mechanical or structural failure, a hijacking or terror plot, or rogue pilot action.
However nothing has emerged to substantiate any of these scenarios.
The lack of solid information has sustained a flow of conspiracy theories, with books, documentaries and a thriving online debate positing a range of possibilities.
These include suggestions that the plane was commandeered to be used as a ‘flying bomb’ headed for US military installations on the Diego Garcia atoll, and was shot down by the Americans. The United States has dismissed this.
US aviation expert Jeff Wise suggested earlier this year that the MH370 was commandeered to a Russian facility in Kazakhstan, possibly an effort by President Vladimir Putin to intimidate the West during the Ukraine crisis, or to gain access to a certain passenger or item in the hold.