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.