Malaysia’s Prime Minister says it is “very likely” that wreckage found on Reunion Island is that of a Boeing 777 – possibly missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
There were also reports from local media that a badly-damaged suitcase had been found near where the wreckage was discovered. Police on the island are investigating the suitcase, which was found by a local worker.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said: “Initial reports suggest that the debris is very likely to be from a Boeing 777 but we need to verify whether it is from MH370.
“We have had many false alarms before but, for the sake of the families who have lost loved ones, and suffered such heartbreaking uncertainty, I pray that we will find out the truth so that they may have closure and peace.”
Mr Razak said two teams have been sent from Malaysia to follow developments: one to Toulouse, where the wreckage will be taken for examination by the BEA, the French authority responsible for investigating civil aviation accidents
The second team is travelling to where the debris was found on Reunion Island, although journey time between Kuala Lumpur and Reunion Island is around 25 hours.
If the wreckage is confirmed as being from a Boeing 777, then it looks likely to have been from MH370: there have only been four hull-loss crashes of Boeing 777s resulting in injuries or fatalities – the other three being over land.
The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight has baffled experts since March 2014, when the plane dropped off radar during a journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board.
Australia is co-ordinating the multi-national search for the jet in a huge expanse of ocean about 1,000 miles off its west coast but Reunion Island is a French department, so this find comes under jurisdiction of French authorities and the Malaysians.
Australia’s deputy prime minister Warren Truss said he had been told it was a “realistic possibility” the wreckage of MH370 could have travelled as far as Reunion if the plane had entered the part of the Indian Ocean being searched. He added that the number on the wreckage was not a serial number but possibly a maintenance number.
French gendarmes and police carry a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion
In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said: “With regards to the reports of the discovery at Reunion Island, we’re working with the relevant authorities to confirm the matter. At the moment it would be too premature for the airline to speculate the origin of the object.”
Radar engineer Dan Holland told Sky News he was “extremely sceptical” it is from MH370, adding that any low-flying plane would have been spotted by powerful military radar on Diego Garcia. He agreed that it was possible the plane’s debris could have drifted a great distance from the crash site, however.
Aviation safety expert John Goglia, a former member of the US National Transportation Safety Board, said the debris is unlikely to give much help in finding the rest of the plane, however.
He added: “It just confirms that the airplane is in the water and hasn’t been hijacked to some remote place and is waiting to be used for some other purpose. We haven’t lost any 777s anywhere else.”