A Malaysian recovery team on the French island of Reunion has collected an aircraft window and other plane parts but could not immediately confirm whether they belonged to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Thursday.
They were among "many items collected" from the Indian Ocean island where part of a wing was found last week, Liow said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said early Thursday that the wing part, known as a flaperon, was confirmed to have come from Flight 370, which disappeared without a trace 17 months ago with 239 people aboard.
French investigators studying the flaperon at a defense laboratory near the southern French city of Toulouse, where it was flown from Reunion, did not confirm Razak's announcement. But French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak said "there exists very strong presumption" that the wing flap was from the Malaysian plane.
Liow told reporters that the new debris was sent "to the French authorities for verification," news agencies reported.
Following Razak's announcement, Malaysia Airlines said it had informed family members of the passengers and crew of Flight 370 that the debris found on Reunion island was from the missing aircraft.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to those affected," the airline said in a statement.
"This is indeed a major breakthrough for us in resolving the disappearance of MH370. We expect and hope that there would be more objects to be found which would be able to help resolve this mystery."
Yet Malaysia's decision to announce its findings ahead of investigators from France, Australia and the U.S. angered some family members of the missing, who have waited more than a year for concrete clues to the fate of the aircraft, which took off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
Writing on the Chinese social media site Weibo, families of Flight 370 passengers and crew said the Malaysian announcement did not resolve their questions about the airliner.
"Families are prepared for any eventuality," read one post. "But…the French and Boeing must say it is from MH370 without a doubt. We are not living in denial…but we owe it to our [loved] ones not to declare them lost without 100% certainty!"
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: "We request that the Malaysian side earnestly implement its relevant commitments, continue to investigate the cause of the plane crash … and earnestly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the families of the passengers."
A small group of Chinese family members protested in Beijing at the Malaysia Airline office and then the Boeing office.
Staff writer Julie Makinen contributed to this report from Beijing.
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