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Investigators have been dispatched to Reunion island to find out if debris came from missing Malaysian Boeing 777. No verified trace of the plane has been found since it mysteriously disappeared last year.
Malaysia said Wednesday it is dispatching a team of investigators to the French island territory of Reunion off the east coast of Africa to ascertain whether washed-up debris may be from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean last year.
"Whatever wreckage found needs to be further verified before we can further confirm whether it belongs to MH370," Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters during a visit to the United Nations in New York.
A two-meter long piece of wreckage washed up near Saint-Andre, on the eastern side of the island on Wednesday. A US official said safety investigators have "a high degree of confidence" that the debris is from a Boeing 777, the same model as the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
The official said investigators, which include a Boeing air safety investigator, identified the debris as a "flaperon," which is part of a 777 wing.
MH370 disappeared from radar screens shortly after departing from Kuala Lumpur in March of 2014. Officials believe the plane was flown thousands of kilometers off course before crashing in the Indian Ocean.
The plane was carrying 239 passengers and crew en route to Beijing when it vanished. No remnants of the plane have been found and its disappearance remains one of aviation's biggest mysteries.
Eric Chesneau, an air transport police officer for the island of Reunion, said it was "more than likely plane debris" that had washed up onshore, but further investigation was required.
Australia has led search efforts for the missing plane, which until now have focused on a broad arc of the southern Indian Ocean of more than 50,000 square kilometers. But the search has proved fruitless thus far.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is working with Boeing and French investigators to determine the source of the debris.
"We know about it and we are trying to work with our French colleagues to try and figure out if this is from MH370. It could take some time," Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan said.
bw/sgb (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)