France hunts for more MH370 plane de­bris off Re­union is­land

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MAH­DIA BENHAMLA

France launched a hunt for more wreck­age from the ill-fated MH370 plane off Re­union is­land on Fri­day in a fresh ef­fort to shed light on one of avi­a­tion’s big­gest mys­ter­ies.

The tiny French In­dian Ocean ter­ri­tory has been un­der in­tense scru­tiny since a beach cleaner found a washed-up wing part last week, which Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak later de­clared was part of the Boe­ing 777 that mys­te­ri­ously van­ished 17 months ago.

The flap­eron is cur­rently be­ing ex­am­ined by ex­perts in France for clues as to the last mo­ments of the Malaysia Air­lines air­craft that in­ex­pli­ca­bly veered off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing, and there are hopes that Re­union may yield more de­bris.

In nearby Mau­ri­tius, author­i­ties are also search­ing for any pos­si­ble plane parts that may have landed on their shores.

Do­minique So­rain, the top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in Re­union is­land, told re­porters that a mil­i­tary trans­port plane was pa­trolling the seas off the coast and a ship had also de­parted be­fore be­ing forced to re­turn due to bad weather.

He added that he­li­copters would also be used, as would sol­diers and po­lice­men who will pa­trol the eastern part of the is­land where the flap­eron was dis­cov­ered.

“This ... will last a week, af­ter which we will draw our first con­clu­sions,” So­rain said.

Ob­jects un­der Seal

Since the dis­cov­ery of the twom­e­ter-long flap­eron last week, peo­ple on the is­land have come for­ward with count­less ob­jects they think may look like plane parts.

So­rain said some of these ob­jects had been placed un­der seal to wait for ex­perts to de­ter­mine whether they re­ally are bits of air­craft or not.

Malaysian Trans­port Min­is­ter Liow Tiong Lai said Thurs­day that more pos­si­ble MH370 ob­jects — air­craft seat cush­ions and win­dows — had been dis­cov­ered on Re­union is­land, but that any link “had to be ver­i­fied by the French author­i­ties.”

A French ju­di­cial source how­ever said French in­ves­ti­ga­tors had not re­ceived any new items.

The Boe­ing 777 dis­ap­peared on March 8 last year, spark­ing the largest search op­er­a­tion in history, now fo­cused on the south­ern In­dian Ocean based on satel­lite data hint­ing at the plane’s path.

Aus­tralian author­i­ties, which are lead­ing the search, ex­pressed re­newed con­fi­dence that they were look­ing in the right area.

“The find­ing of this piece of wing gives us hope that we are search­ing in the right lo­ca­tion, given the tides and cur­rents and drift pat­terns,” For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop told Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion from Malaysia.

French pros­e­cu­tors in­volved in the anal­y­sis of the flap­eron have how­ever been more cau­tious, say­ing only that there was a “very high prob­a­bil­ity” it came from the Boe­ing 777.

But Liow said on Thurs­day that cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics of the wing part, in­clud­ing its paint, matched MH370 main­te­nance records — back­ing up Na­jib’s an­nounce­ment that it was part of the plane.

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