The prime minister of Malaysia said Wednesday that wing debris found on an island in the Indian Ocean was that of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
His comments came hours after air experts began examining a part, known as a flaperon, that already had been identified as coming from a Boeing 777. It was found on a beach on the French island of Reunion a week ago.
A French prosecutor stopped short of confirming that the part came from the missing plane, but said it appeared likely.
“In view of the experts’ report, we can say today there exists very strong presumption that the flaperon found on the beach on Reunion comes from the Boeing 777 of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370,” Serge Mackowiak said at a news conference in Paris.
The 6-foot-long piece of metal is covered with crustaceans, which may solve the mystery of what happened to the aircraft that disappeared in March 2014 after taking off from Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, for Beijing with 239 people aboard. Barnacles and other marine life can tell experts how long, and where, the craft was in the water.
Investigators and other officials convened Wednesday afternoon at a defense laboratory near the southern French city of Toulouse, where the flaperon was taken Saturday after being flown from Reunion.
Passengers’ families have been in limbo for 17 months.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, speaking to journalists in Kuala Lumpur, said that a “team of international experts” had confirmed the wreckage came from Flight 370, which he hoped would “lift the fog of uncertainty” for grieving relatives.
Mackowiak, the prosecutor, said there were two reasons for believing the wing flap came from the Malaysian jet.
First, “Boeing has confirmed that the flaperon comes from a Boeing 777 because of the color, structure, joints,” he said. “The second reason is that Malaysia Airlines representatives have communicated details of the aircraft and on this basis we can link the piece examined by the experts with the Boeing 777 of Flight MH 370 because of technical similarities.”
He said he hoped that further tests to be carried out Thursday would confirm this.
The examination of the flaperon took place in the presence of representatives of Malaysia Airlines, Chinese legal officials and representatives from Boeing, as well as French gendarmes and magistrates leading the investigation.
France is heading the inquiry because the debris was found on French territory and because four people aboard Flight 370 were French.
A piece of suitcase found on the same beach as the wing debris is being analyzed at a laboratory near Paris.
Willsher is a special correspondent.
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