A piece of plane debris that washed up on an Indian Ocean island has arrived in France for analysis. Investigators believe the part belongs to flight MH370, which went missing more than a year ago.
An Air France flight transporting the piece of wreckage from the French island of Reunion landed at Orly airport in Paris at 6:17 a.m. (0417 UTC) on Saturday. A police escort was then expected to accompany the two-meter (6.5-foot) section to a military laboratory near the southwestern city of Toulouse, where investigators will run a series of tests.
The chunk from an airliner's wing, known as a flaperon, was discovered on Reunion earlier in the week. Malaysian authorities have since confirmed it comes from a Boeing 777.
"If the flaperon does belong to MH370, it is actually in accordance with the drift pattern seen in the Southern Indian Ocean. But we do not want to speculate," Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told Reuters on Saturday.
"We will wait for verification from the French authorities," he said, adding that Malaysian officials had been sent to Reunion to look for more debris, and that a team of Malaysian investigators was headed for France.
The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 vanished in March 2014 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur with 239 passengers on board. An Australian-led search operation has spent the past 16 months scouring a 120,000-square-kilometer area on the Indian Ocean seabed, but has so far found no trace of the airliner.
The lack of physical evidence has given rise to speculation on the cause of the plane's disappearance, with most theories focusing on a possible mechanical failure, a rogue pilot action or a terrorist plot.
"I believe that we are moving closer to solving the mystery of MH370. This could be the convincing evidence that MH370 went down in the Indian Ocean," Malaysia's Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi told AFP.
But Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss warned that while the part "could be a very important piece of evidence," finding out where it may have drifted from was "almost impossible."
If investigators can confirm that the flaperon comes from the MH370, the laboratory can use sophisticated equipment to try and find out what happened - for example, whether it points to a mid-air explosion or a crash into the ocean.
nm/bk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)