AVIATION

'No absolute certainty yet' Reunion Island wing piece part of missing flight MH370

Staff of flaperon's maker are on leave and have yet to confirm debris belongs to plane, families cite aviation officials as saying

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 August, 2015, 11:35pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 August, 2015, 11:35pm

A wing segment that washed up on Réunion Island late last month cannot yet be confirmed as part of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370, relatives of those on the plane cited Chinese aviation officials as saying on Monday.

Managers from the Spanish maker of a key part of the wing piece called a flaperon were on leave, so it had yet to be established conclusively that the debris found on the remote French Indian Ocean island was from the airliner, Civil Aviation Administration officials told about 30 relatives of Chinese passengers on the missing jet.

The meeting was held as the Maldives joined a regional search for wreckage from the plane, after reports that islanders had found debris that resembled either plane material or a type of surfboard.

The 50-minute meeting was held in response to relatives' petitions for more technical details from the mainland aviation agency's experts who had joined the identification efforts in France. But the technical experts did not attend yesterday.

After meeting the aviation officials, the relatives made their way to the foreign affairs ministry, where an employee told them it had conveyed their appeals to their Malaysian counterparts.

They also gathered again near the Malaysian embassy in downtown Beijing to call for meetings with Malaysian officials. Dozens of police officers and security guards blocked off the streets leading to the embassy.

The family members had earlier submitted a signed letter to the embassy, requesting to meet Malaysian officials. But they had not heard back from the embassy. "It was the Malaysian government that announced the confirmation, [so] the Malaysian government should step out to face us and answer our questions," said Dai Shuqin, whose sister was on board MH370 with four members of her sister's family.

One Beijing-based relative, Jiang Hui, said the families would continue to urge the Malaysian government to meet them.

In the Maldives, a police spokesman said the authorities had received reports of sightings of debris washed up along the northern atolls of the archipelago, some of which occurred about a month ago.

After that discovery, the Malaysian authorities alerted nearby Madagascar and the South African coast, which were identified as possible locations for debris to wash up. Mauritius has also joined the search.

Although some social media users have said the debris found resembled aviation material, it also appeared similar to the aluminium honeycomb construction of some surfboards. MH370, a Boeing 777, disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, 153 of them from China.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse