Malaysia confirms plane debris is from Flight MH370

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Debris Found on Reunion Island Is from MH370

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Experts have confirmed that the debris found on Reunion Island last week was that of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 that went missing last year, Malaysia's prime minister said Wednesday.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts has conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris ... is indeed MH370," Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters.

The Boeing 777 jetliner disappeared 515 days ago on March 8 while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. It is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, but the reason remains one of aviation's biggest mysteries.

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Malaysia confirms plane debris is from Flight MH370
Joao de Abreu, President of Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), holds a piece of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast of Mozambique at Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) in Maputo on March 3, 2016. A hunk of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast will be sent to Australia where experts will examine whether it is a new piece in the puzzle of missing flight MH370, officials said. The fragment was reportedly found near Mozambique and could provide clues in the huge and costly Australia-led investigation into what happened to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared nearly two years ago. / AFP / ADRIEN BARBIER (Photo credit should read ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Joao de Abreu, president of Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), holds a piece of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast of Mozambique at Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) in Maputo on March 3, 2016. A hunk of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast will be sent to Australia where experts will examine whether it is a new piece in the puzzle of missing flight MH370, officials said. The fragment was reportedly found near Mozambique and could provide clues in the huge and costly Australia-led investigation into what happened to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared nearly two years ago. / AFP / ADRIEN BARBIER (Photo credit should read ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on March 3, 2016 shows a piece of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast of Mozambique at Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) in Maputo. A hunk of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast will be sent to Australia where experts will examine whether it is a new piece in the puzzle of missing flight MH370, officials said. The fragment was reportedly found near Mozambique and could provide clues in the huge and costly Australia-led investigation into what happened to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared nearly two years ago. / AFP / ADRIEN BARBIER (Photo credit should read ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on March 3, 2016 shows a piece of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast of Mozambique at Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) in Maputo. A hunk of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast will be sent to Australia where experts will examine whether it is a new piece in the puzzle of missing flight MH370, officials said. The fragment was reportedly found near Mozambique and could provide clues in the huge and costly Australia-led investigation into what happened to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared nearly two years ago. / AFP / ADRIEN BARBIER (Photo credit should read ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo dated Wednesday, July 29, 2015, French police officers inspect a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP Photo/Lucas Marie)
Journalists stand next to a police officer holding a piece of plastic found on the sea front of Saint-Denis, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on August 4, 2015. Last week a wing part washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, and has been taken to France to for physical and chemical analysis. In one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history, MH370 inexplicably veered off course in March 2014 and disappeared from radars, sparking a colossal hunt that has until now proved fruitless. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer holds a piece of plastic found on the sea front of Saint-Denis, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on August 4, 2015. Last week a wing part washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, and has been taken to France to for physical and chemical analysis. In one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history, MH370 inexplicably veered off course in March 2014 and disappeared from radars, sparking a colossal hunt that has until now proved fruitless. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents look for debris on a beach of the Etang de Bois Rouge on the sea front of Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on August 4, 2015. Last week a wing part washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, and has been taken to France to for physical and chemical analysis. In one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history, MH370 inexplicably veered off course in March 2014 and disappeared from radars, sparking a colossal hunt that has until now proved fruitless. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Johnny Begue (C), who stumbled across a piece of plane wreckage from the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on the beach on July 29, 2015, help repair the costline in Saint-Andre on the east of the French island of La Reunion, on August 6, 2015. The two-metre (six-foot) long piece of wing, was half covered in sand and had barnacles encrusted on its edges. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, gestures before speaking at a special press conference announcing the findings for the ill fated flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, early Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. Experts have confirmed that the debris found on Reunion Island last week was that of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 that went missing last year, Malaysia's prime minister said early Thursday. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Police officers inspect metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on August 2, 2015, close to where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on August 2, 2015 shows metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, close to where where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers leave the scene with container holding metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on August 2, 2015, close to where where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers inspect and photograph metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on August 2, 2015, close to where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers for an association responsible for maintaining paths to Jamaica beach from being overgrown by shrubs, search the beach for possible additional airplane debris near the shore where an airplane wing part was washed up, in the early morning near to Saint-Denis on the north coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. A barnacle-encrusted wing part that washed up on the remote Indian Ocean island earlier could help solve one of aviation's greatest mysteries, as investigators work to connect it to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished more than a year ago with 293 people aboard. (AP Photo/Fabrice Wislez)
Police officers inspect metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on August 2, 2015, close to where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers for an association responsible for maintaining paths to the beaches from being overgrown by shrubs, search the beach for possible additional airplane debris near the shore where an airplane wing part was washed up, in the early morning near to Saint-Andre on the north coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Friday, July 31, 2015. A barnacle-encrusted wing part that washed up on the remote Indian Ocean island could help solve one of aviation's greatest mysteries, as investigators work to connect it to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished more than a year ago with 293 people aboard. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Workers for an association responsible for maintaining paths to the beaches from being overgrown by shrubs, search the beach for possible additional airplane debris near the area where an airplane wing part was washed up, in the early morning near Saint-Andre on the north coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Friday, July 31, 2015. A barnacle-encrusted wing part that washed up on the remote Indian Ocean island could help solve one of aviation's greatest mysteries, as investigators work to connect it to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished more than a year ago with 293 people aboard. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Johnny Begue, 46, who says he found the piece of aircraft debris that is being investigated, walks on Bois-Rouge beach where the debris was washed up, near to Saint-Andre on the north coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Friday, July 31, 2015. The fragment may be the first clue as to what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared last year with 293 people aboard. Massive search efforts have failed to find any sign of the plane, and authorities are analyzing the piece to see if it matches the missing plane. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo dated Wednesday, July 29, 2015, French police officers carry a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP Photo/Lucas Marie)
In this photo dated Wednesday, July 29, 2015, a piece of debris from a plane is pictured in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. A 6-foot long piece of an airplane was found off Reunion Island on Wednesday by people cleaning the beach. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP Photo)
Police carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITOU (Photo credit should read YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
This image taken from video, shows a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (Reunion 1ere via AP) FRANCE OUT
In this photo dated Wednesday, July 29, 2015, French police officers carry a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP Photo/Lucas Marie)
Police and gendarmes carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITOU (Photo credit should read YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 30: Debris found on the island of Reunion east of Madagascar, appears to be part of Malaysia Airlines MH370 that disappeared in 2014. (Photo by Graphic: Ahmet Burak Ozkan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A policeman and a gendarme stand next to a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITOU (Photo credit should read YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
In this image taken from video, police officers looking over a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (Reunion 1ere via AP) FRANCE OUT
This image taken from video shows a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (Reunion 1ere via AP) FRANCE OUT
In this his image taken from video, police officers looking at a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (Reunion 1ere via AP) FRANCE OUT
A policeman and a gendarme stand next to a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITOU (Photo credit should read YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
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The first ever physical evidence of the aircraft was found on the French territory of Reunion Island in the Indian ocean, thousands of miles (kilometres) from the site near Australia where the plane is believed to have gone down.

"We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean," Najib said.

"The burden and uncertainty faced by the families during this time has been unspeakable. It is my hope that this confirmation, however tragic and painful, will at least bring certainty to the families and loved ones of the 239 people onboard MH370. They have our deepest sympathy and prayers," he said.

Intact and encrusted with barnacles, the metal piece was sent to France for scrutiny by the French civil aviation investigation department known by its acronym BEA, and members from its Malaysian and Australian counterparts.

In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said the part of the plane's wing, known as a "flaperon," which was found on Reunion Island on July 29 had been confirmed to be of Flight 370.

"Family members of passengers and crew have already been informed and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected," it said.

The statement said this "is indeed a major breakthrough for us in resolving the disappearance of MH370. We expect and hope that there would be more objects to be found which would be able to help resolve this mystery."

At a press conference in Paris, authorities were much more cautious than the Malaysian prime minister. Deputy French Prosecutor Serge Mackowiak didn't outright confirm that the debris belonged to flight MH370 but said there were strong indications that it was the case.

"The very strong conjectures are to be confirmed by complimentary analysis that will begin tomorrow morning," Mackowiak said. "The experts are conducting their work as fast as they can in order to give complete and reliable information as quickly as possible."


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, gestures before speaking at a special press conference announcing the findings for the ill fated flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, early Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. Experts have confirmed that the debris found on Reunion Island last week was that of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 that went missing last year, Malaysia's prime minister said early Thursday. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

In addition to confirming the provenance of the 777 flap, analysts say the investigators will examine the metal with high-powered microscopes to gain insight into what caused the plane to go down. It is also not known why the plane turned back from its original flight path and headed in an opposite direction before turning left and flying south over the Indian Ocean for hours.

Jacquita Gomes, the wife of crew member Patrick Gomes, said she was informed by Malaysia Airlines about the news half an hour before Najib's announcement.

"Now that they have confirmed it as MH370, I know my husband is no longer of this world but they just can't leave it with this one flaperon. We urge them to continue searching until they find the plane and bring it back," she said.

"We still need to know what happened. They still need to find the plane. They still need to find the black box to get the truth out," she said. "It brings some sort of closure but not a complete closure. We don't know what happened and where the plane went down. It's not over yet."

Gomes said she hopes to get her husband's body back so that the family can give him a proper burial and say goodbye.

She said she watched the announcement on TV with one of her daughters, while her youngest child, a 15-year-old son, was asleep.

"My son doesn't know yet that his dad is really gone, that he won't be back," she said, in tears. "I will have to tell him tomorrow before he goes to school."

Highly technical efforts to extrapolate the jet's final hours before it would have run out of fuel gave force to the theory that it went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

No one is certain why the plane deviated so far from its planned route.

Analysts have said a close look at the wing part could indicate what kind of stress the plane was under as it made impact. It won't fully solve the mystery of why the plane disappeared, nor will it help pinpoint where the plane crashed.

A six-week air and sea search covering 4.6 million square kilometers (1.8 million square miles) of the southern Indian Ocean surface early last year failed to find any trace of the jet. The Reunion Island debris would be consistent with the working theory that the jet went down in the Indian Ocean and the debris travelled with the ocean current which moves counter-clockwise.

Malaysian officials, who are leading the investigation into the plane's disappearance, have said the plane's movements were consistent with deliberate actions by someone on the plane, suggesting someone in the cockpit intentionally flew the aircraft off-course.

Since last year, Australian officials who are leading the search effort have operated on the theory that the plane flew on autopilot for hours before running out of fuel and crashing into the ocean. Investigators settled on this scenario after analyzing data exchanged between the plane and a satellite, which showed the plane took a straight path across the ocean. Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan said last year that investigators assume the autopilot would have to have been manually switched on, again suggesting that someone in the cockpit deliberately steered the plane off-course.

In defining the search area, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau also operated on the theory that the crew was unresponsive, possibly suffering from oxygen deprivation, as the plane flew on autopilot. The agency said this was indicated by the loss of radio communications and a long period without any maneuvering of the plane, though it emphasized this was only a working theory and did not mean that accident investigators led by Malaysia would reach a similar conclusion.

A loss of cabin air pressure could cause oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia, which could make pilots unable to perform even basic tasks.

Some analysts argue that the apparent lack of damage to the piece of wreckage indicates a controlled landing on the ocean, with the jet sinking largely intact.

Another theory is that the jet plunged into the water vertically - high dive-style - snapping off both wings but preserving the fuselage. Yet another possibility, supported by a flight simulator, is that an out-of-fuel Boeing 777 would belly-flop heavily tail-first, disintegrating on impact.

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Paul Joshua in Kuala Lumpur and Thomas Adamson in Paris contributed to this report.

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