Flotsam on Distant Shore Brings Breakthrough in MH370 Probe


2015.08.06
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A relative of a passenger on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 waits outside the carrier’s office in Beijing, Aug. 6, 2015. [AFP]

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers a statement at a 2 a.m. news conference in Kuala Lumpur confirming that debris found on Reunion island had come from missing flight MH370, Aug. 6, 2015. [AFP]

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Elaine Chew, the wife of Tan Size Hiang, a crew member on MH370, reacts during in interview in Kuala Lumpur after Prime Minister Najib’s news conference, Aug. 6, 2015. [AFP]

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Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (second, left) and other officials leave the offices of the BEA, the French aviation authority, in Balma, near Toulouse, where the airplane debris was being analyzed, Aug. 5, 2015. [AFP]

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This close-up photograph shows shells growing on the piece of the airplane’s wing, which was found on Reunion island, July 29, 2015. [AFP]

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A Malaysian official scours a beach on Reunion in search of more plane debris, Aug. 4, 2015. [AFP]

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Johnny Begue, a member of a local shore cleaning company on Reunion who stumbled upon the airplane part that turned out to be the flaperon from the missing Malaysian airliner, poses with the remains of a suitcase found at the same site, July 30, 2015. [AFP]

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Policemen on Reunion carry the piece of washed-up debris , July 29, 2015. [AFP]

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Jiang Hui, whose mother was a passenger on the missing flight, watches a recording of a TV news program about the discovery of the debris on Reunion, at his home in Beijing, July 31, 2015. [AFP]

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Lava flows from Piton de la Fournaise, a volcano on Reunion, as international media flock to the Indian Ocean island to report on the discovery of airplane debris, Aug. 1, 2015. [AFP]

The piece of debris was two meters (6.5 feet) long and encrusted with barnacles when it was discovered on a beach on Reunion, a French island in the western Indian Ocean, in late July.

It turned out to be a flaperon, part of a wing from a Boeing 777. And it appeared to provide the first tangible evidence that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had crashed, after it vanished 17 months ago during a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Of the 239 people on board, 153 were Chinese nationals and 38 were Malaysians.

After the discovery was announced July 29, the piece of wing was sent for laboratory testing and analysis near Toulouse, France.

At an early-morning news conference in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 6, Prime Minister Najib Razak delivered the news that an international team of experts had “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,” he told his nation.

Deputy Prosecutor Serge Mackowiak, a French official involved in the analysis, was more cautious, saying only there was a "very high probability" it came from the plane.

That discrepancy angered some MH370 relatives. Many voiced anguish that so much about the plane’s fate remained unknown – including where it is and why it vanished.

Officials in Australia, which is spearheading the search for the plane, expressed optimism that the flaperon discovery had brought the world closer to solving the mystery.

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