Asia

MH370 search: more apparent plane debris found on Réunion, says minister

Malaysia’s transport minister has said a Malaysian team on the French territory of Réunion has collected more apparent plane debris, including a window and some aluminium foil.

But Liow Tiong Lai said he could not confirm the items belonged to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in March last year with 239 people on board. “I can only ascertain that it’s plane debris.”

On Wednesday, Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak had said a wing part found on Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean, was from the missing plane.

Liow told reporters many items had been collected from the island and sent to French authorities for verification. “I cannot confirm that it’s from MH370,” he said.

Liow said Malaysia had asked authorities in neighbouring areas, including Mauritius and Madagascar, to help comb their beaches for possible debris to widen the search.

A Malaysian expert (L) looks for debris from the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on a beach in Saint-Andre de la Reunion, on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean A source close to French investigators on Réunion said they have no information concerning the discovery of new debris.

Investigations have resumed at a French military laboratory into the wing part. French prosecutors were more cautious in their initial findings than Razak, saying only that there was a “very high probability” that the part, known as a flaperon, was from MH370. But they confirmed the part was from a Boeing 777, of the type that vanished while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Chinese relatives of passengers on doomed flight reacted with grief and frustration to Razak’s statement about the flaperon. About a dozen distraught relatives marched on the Beijing headquarters of Malaysia Airlines on Thursday morning.

“I want to kill him,” shouted Zhang Meiling, 62, whose daughter and son-in-law were on the plane. “What he said is nonsense. I just want to kill him.”

China is home to more than half of the people who were on the plane, and many relatives called on the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to help them in their quest for justice.

“I don’t believe it,” said Bao Lanfang, 63, whose son, daughter-in-law and three-year-old grandchild were on MH370. “It has been 515 [days] – that is enough time for them to have produced fake debris.”

Many of the Chinese relatives continue to cling to the hope that their loved ones might be alive. In a statement, China’s foreign ministry expressed “grief and sorrow for those on board” and sent “profound sympathy and condolences to their families”.

Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre, which is leading the search for the crash site of MH370, said it will continue scanning the seabed 2,000km west of the Western Australian coastline. The agency said it was confident the discovery on Réunion was consistent with the crash site being within the search area.

Breakthrough

On July 29, 2015, a six-feet (two meters) long object was washed ashore on the French Reunion Island and looked similar to a “flaperon” from the wing of a Boeing 777 aircraft, the same model as that of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. While Malaysian Prime Minister has confirmed that the object is in fact from the missing plane, French authorities are cautious of declaring anything officially yet but have added that they have reached a “very strong presumption” that the debris belongs to the lost Malaysian airliner. However, many relatives of the victims refuse to believe the Malaysian Prime Minister’s statement, clinging to hopes that their loved ones are still alive. Let’s look at the crucial highlights of the disappearance and search of the jetliner over the past year.

Normal departure

The Boeing 777 with 239 people on board took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 am (local time) on March 8, 2014, and was due to arrive in Beijing the same day at 6:30 am (local time).

Final transmission

The plane sent ACARS transmission that gave engine maintenance data to the ground at 1:07 am. The system was later deactivated.

The last words

The initial probe revealed that the last communication between the plane and the Malaysian air traffic control took place about 12 minutes after the take off. The co-pilot had said “All right, good night”. However, authorities later confirmed that the last words were either by the pilot or co-pilot. The last words were: “Good night Malaysian three seven zero”.

First red flag

Vietnamese authorities said the plane failed to check in as scheduled with air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City at 1:21 am. No distress signal was issued.

Last known location

Radars of Malaysian military plotted MH370 at a point south of Phuket Island in the Strait of Malacca, west of its last known location, at 2:15 am. Thai military logs also confirmed the location.

Vanishing into thin air

The last time signals from the flight were picked up after the loss of radar was at 8:11 am. It was the only time the satellite above the Indian Ocean was able to pick up the signals from the plane before it disappeared.

The mammoth search

At least 26 nations were involved in the search of the missing jet. According to authorities, 112 aircraft and 13 ships scoured the depth of water in the search area of 4.6 million square kilometers of the Indian Ocean, or about one percent of the Earth’s surface area.

Distraught families

Even a year after the tragedy there was no sense of closure for the affected families. Many felt that the government was not doing enough to solve the mystery of the missing jet.

Anger, agony and unending wait

Experts feel that the urge to ‘see’ the remains of the loved ones is essential for the affected families to achieve closure. There are those who are still waiting for a miracle to happen.

Faces of MH370

The majority of the MH370 passengers were from China. There were 153 Chinese passengers and 38 Malaysians on board. Among the Chinese nationals was a delegation of 19 prominent artists, who had attended an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Other passengers came from Iran, U.S., Canada, Indonesia, Australia, India, France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands.

‘It was an accident’

Malaysia officially declared the disappearance of the flight MH370 an accident and everyone on board presumed dead. The announcement came 327 days after the plane vanished above the Strait of Malacca.

Families not convinced

The official declaration of the disappearance of flight MH370 aimed to clear the way for the compensation for the affected families. However, there were many who were outraged over the decision. Some of the relatives of the affected families said they were not convinced by the evidence disclosed by the Malaysian authorities.

The best and most outlandish conspiracy theories

Beyond the normal debates and expert analyses, there were many conspiracy theories doing the rounds. Some of the conspiracy theories follow.

Aliens have abducted the plane

According to a poll by an American TV channel, one in 10 Americans believe that aliens were involved in the disappearance of the plane. There were reports of a UFO being sighted over Malaysian skies as proof of involvement from outer space.

MH370 and MH17 were same plane

This theory pointed toward possibility that the airliner that crashed in Ukrainian fields on July 17, 2014, was in fact the lost MH370 and not MH17 as reported by the mainstream media.

Hopes revive

There is still no end to the anger and trauma of the affected families. However, if the debris found really turns out to be from flight MH370, it would probably lead to further investigation to help resolve the mystery and provide some sort of closure to the families of the victims.

Réunion is about 4,000km from the search area, which was doubled to 120,000 sq km in April.

The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, said the underwater search for the rest of the plane, which has so far cost more than A$100m, would continue.

“We owe it to the hundreds of millions of people who use our skies, we owe it to the 24 million Australians who use our skies, we owe it to them to try to ensure that air travel is as safe as it possibly can be, to try to get to the bottom of this terrible mystery,” he said on Thursday.

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