Malaysia PM Najib Razak has announced that debris found on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion is to be transported to France to find out whether it is from the missing airliner MH370.
Initial reports suggest the 2-meter long wreckage is very likely to be from a Boeing 777, the prime minister said.
Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370 is the only Boeing 777 to have disappeared over an ocean.
There were 239 people on board when the plane went missing in March 2014.
Razak Najib said French authorities were taking the debris to the southern French city of Toulouse – the site of the nearest office of the French body responsible for air accident investigations (the BEA) – to verify it as quickly as possible.
A Malaysian team of investigators and representatives from the government and the airline was travelling to Toulouse, and a second team to the site of the find on Reunion, the prime minister said.
Najib Razak said the location was “consistent with the drift analysis provided to the Malaysian investigation team”.
“As soon as we have more information or any verification we will make it public…
“I promise the families of those lost that whatever happens, we will not give up.”
Aviation experts who have studied photos of the debris found on Reunion on July 29 say it does resemble a flaperon – a moving part of the wing surface – from a Boeing 777.
On July 30, a municipal employee found what appeared to be a very badly damaged suitcase on the Reunion coast, according to local media.
The item was found at Saint-Andre, the same location as the earlier debris.
Reunion, a French overseas department, is about 370 miles east of Madagascar.
The search efforts for MH370, led by Australia, are focused on a broad expanse of the southern Indian Ocean – around 2,500 miles to the east of Reunion.
After MH370 disappeared from radar screens, experts analyzed data from faint “pings” the aircraft sent to satellites to narrow down its last known location.
It was this information that identified the search area in the southern Indian Ocean, west of Perth.
A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said: “We have noticed the reports and are wasting no time in obtaining and checking the information.”
More than half of those on board the missing plane were Chinese citizens.
A group of relatives of many of the Chinese passengers said in a statement that they wanted “100%” certainty about where the part is from, and that the search for the airliner should continue.
Madagascar voters are going to the polls in the first election since the military-backed coup in 2009.
Thirty-three candidates are contesting the election, which has been postponed three times this year.
Two front-runners are competing with a similar pledge to rebuild Madagascar’s economy after years of political and economic crisis.
Over 92% of Madagascar’s 21 million people live on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank.
The two front-runners, Hery Martial Rakotoarimanana Rajaonarimampianina and Richard Jean-Louis Robinson, are both pledging to rebuild Madagascar’s economy.
President Andry Rajoelina ousted Marc Ravalomanana from power in 2009, plunging the island nation into political turmoil and leaving the country isolated by the international community and deprived of foreign aid.
After seizing power, Andry Rajoelina announced that there would be a new constitution and elections within 24 months.
In May 2009 it was agreed that all former presidents would be allowed to stand in the election. However, these failed to take place in 2009 or 2010.
Madagascar voters are going to the polls in the first election since the military-backed coup in 2009
In January this year Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana both agreed not to stand in the polls, in line with a plan by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional bloc that Madagascar belongs to.
The first round of this election was set to take place in July 2013 but was pushed back to August because Marc Ravalomanana’s wife and former first lady, Lalao – and then Andry Rajoelina himself – decided to run, prompting donors to suspend financing for the poll.
Andry Rajoelina and Lalao Ravalomanana were then barred from standing and the electoral court also struck former President Didier Ratsiraka from the list of candidates after the three refused to withdraw.
The African Union had said it would not recognize the results if any of the three were declared the winner.
The electoral commission then set the elections for October 25.
Hery Martial Rakotoarimanana Rajaonarimampianina, a former finance minister in the transitional government, says he aims to help the unemployed, build infrastructure to improve agriculture, reform the education system and make Madagascar a strong democracy.
Richard Jean-Louis Robinson says that his electoral programme will draw heavily on a new version of Lalao Ravalomanana’s Madagascar Action Plan (MAP) to help rebuild society and also rejuvenate the ailing tourism industry.
The polls will be run by the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Transition (CENIT) – an independent electoral body funded by the United Nations.
No firm date has been set to announce the results but if no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes cast, a second round will be held on December 20, along with the parliamentary elections.
CENIT says there are 7,697,382 registered voters and 20,115 polling stations in Madagascar, a country the size of France with a scattered population.
Experts have warned that Madagascar is facing a bubonic plague epidemic unless it slows the spread of the disease.
The Red Cross and Pasteur Institute say inmates in Madagascar’s dirty, crowded jails are particularly at risk.
The number of cases rises each October as hot humid weather attracts fleas, which transmit the disease from rats and other animals to humans.
Madagascar had 256 plague cases and 60 deaths last year, the world’s highest recorded number.
Bubonic plague, known as the Black Death when it killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages, is now rare.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva and the Pasteur Institute have worked with local health groups in Madagascar since February 2012 on a campaign to improve prison hygiene.
“If the plague gets into prisons there could be a sort of atomic explosion of plague within the town. The prison walls will never prevent the plague from getting out and invading the rest of the town,” said the institute’s Christophe Rogier.
Experts have warned that Madagascar is facing a bubonic plague epidemic unless it slows the spread of the disease
The ICRC said the 3,000 inmates of Antanimora, the main prison in the heart of the capital Antananarivo, live with a huge rat population which spreads infected fleas through food supplies, bedding and clothing.
The ICRC’s Evaristo Oliviera said this could affect not only inmates and staff, but others they come into contact with.
Evaristo Oliviera said the disease could be treated with antibiotics if detected early, but a lack of facilities and traditional shame over the disease made this tricky in outlying parts of Madagascar.
Experts say that Africa – especially Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo – accounts for more than 90% of cases worldwide.
However, in August a 15-year-old herder died in Kyrgyzstan of bubonic plague – the first case in the country in 30 years – officials said
During the last 20 years, at least three countries experienced outbreaks of human plague after dormant periods of about 30-50 years, experts say.
These areas were India in 1994 and 2002, Indonesia in 1997 and Algeria in 2003.
According to the WHO, the last significant outbreak of bubonic plague was in Peru in 2010 when 12 people were found to have been infected.
What is bubonic plague?
Caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis
Essentially a disease of wild rodents, spread by fleas
Plague spreads to humans either by the bite of infected fleas or rats
Does not spread from person to person
Patients develop swollen, tender lymph glands (called buboes) and fever, headache, chills and weakness
It is treatable if caught early, but can be lethal
A three-centimeter chameleon discovered in Madagascar is now thought to be one of the smallest reptiles on the planet.
Balanced on the tip of a scientist’s fingernail in Madagascar, the-three centimeter reptile is no bigger than the flies that form his average-sized cousin’s lunch.
Scientists discovered four new species – called Brookesia micra – on a small islet just off Madagascar.
Ted Townsend, of San Diego State University, carried out genetic testing on the new species.
A three-centimeter chameleon discovered in Madagascar is now thought to be one of the smallest reptiles on the planet
Ted Townsend said: “Their size suggests that chameleons might have evolved in Madagascar from small and inconspicuous ancestors, quite unlike the larger and more colourful chameleons most familiar to us today.”
The new additions to the chameleon species are only found in an area just a few square miles in size.
Experts believe they may be especially sensitive to habitat destruction.