‘‘Our goal … con­tin­ues to be not only to find the aero­plane, but also to de­ter­mine what hap­pened and why. BOE­ING SPOKESMAN

THE dis­cov­ery of what looks to be the first piece of de­bris from the miss­ing MH370 is the strong­est in­di­ca­tion yet the $ 180 mil­lion search for the plane is be­ing con­ducted in the right place.

The air­craft flap­eron iden­ti­cal to that of a Boe­ing 777 was found on a beach of Re­union Is­land, more than 6000km west of Perth.

Oceanog­ra­phers and other ex­perts said the dis­cov­ery was “ab­so­lutely con­sis­tent” with drift mod­el­ling based around MH370’ s likely rest­ing place in the south­ern In­dian Ocean.

As fam­i­lies pro­cessed the news, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter War­ren Truss called for a cau­tious ap­proach un­til the de­bris could be iden­ti­fied.

Aus­tralia has com­mit­ted $ 90 mil­lion to the search, a sum Malaysia has promised to match.

So far, $ 76 mil­lion has been spent by Aus­tralia alone and the Gov­ern­ment has re­fused to com­mit to more once the cur­rent search ef­fort is com­plete.

Mr Truss yesterday de­scribed the dis­cov­ery on Re­union Is­land as “in­ter­est­ing” and said Malaysian of­fi­cials would lead the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Cov­ered in shells and bar­na­cles, the wing part was im­me­di­ately as­sessed by ex­perts as hav­ing been in the wa­ter for about a year.

A num­ber printed on the de­bris could as­sist in­ves­ti­ga­tors, who in­di­cated it should only be a mat­ter of days be­fore they could con­firm the flap­eron’s ori­gins.

US avi­a­tion safety con­sul­tant John Cox said it looked as if the wing had been bro­ken rather than ripped off, con­sis­tent with the the­ory MH370 made a con­trolled ditch into the sea.

A Boe­ing spokesman said they were help­ing in any way they could.

“Our goal, along with the en­tire global avi­a­tion in­dus­try, con­tin­ues to be not only to find the aero­plane, but also to de­ter­mine what hap­pened and why,” he said.

The Malaysia Air­lines plane dis­ap­peared on March 8, 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing, with 239 peo­ple on board in­clud­ing six Aus­tralians.

Af­ter van­ish­ing from radar screens, the air­craft is thought to have flown for up to seven hours be­fore run­ning out of fuel over the south­ern In­dian Ocean, about 2000km west of Perth.

The French Is­land of Re­union is 4000km from the cur­rent search zone but drift mod­el­ling showed it was pos­si­ble de­bris had trav­elled that far.

Im­pe­rial Col­lege oceanog­ra­pher Erik van Se­bille said it was pos­si­ble noth­ing fur­ther would be found on Re­union Is­land.

“Be­cause the ocean is so chaotic, it will be very hard to track back where this par­tic­u­lar piece was 16 months ago,” said Dr van Se­bille.

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