‘Chinese water bottle, Indonesian canister’ wash up on Reunion Island after possible MH370 wing flap find
Malaysia ‘moving close’ to solving MH370 mystery, deputy transport minister says after confirming wreckage found in Indian Ocean as coming from a Boeing 777
Authorities hunting for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are “increasingly confident” that a damaged wing part found on an Indian Ocean island was from the ill-fated jet, as new reports claimed a Chinese water bottle and Indonesian cleaning product washed up onshore.
The bottle and canister were reported found a day after a local beachcomber discovered a mangled suitcase shell on Saint-Andre, the same place where the wing flap was found.
Investigators are “moving close to solving the mystery of MH370,” Malaysia’s deputy transport minister said on Friday, adding that a piece of wreckage found in the Indian Ocean has been confirmed as coming from a Boeing 777.
“I believe that we are moving close to solving the mystery of MH370. This could be the convincing evidence that MH370 went down in the Indian Ocean,” Abdul Aziz Kaprawi told reporters.
A part number stencilled on the piece of wreckage recovered on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion on Wednesday confirms it came from a Boeing 777, he said.
The ill-fated jet, which vanished 16 months ago with 239 people aboard, was a Boeing 777.
Abdul Aziz said he was informed of the confirmation of the part number by Malaysia Airlines.
Pictures of the smaller debris were posted by aviation website AirLive.net, which has been closely following the case since the jet disappeared on March 8, 2014.
However, there were no reports as yet on whether these three objects were linked to a plane.
— AirLive.net (@airlivenet) July 31, 2015
— Pat Wheeler (@PatWheel) July 31, 2015
The two-metre-long wing flap, called a flaperon, was sent to Tououse, France - the location of the closest office of the BEA, France's aviation accident investigation body - for analysis.
The main question is whether it is from a Boeing 777 plane - the same make as MH370's. That flight is the only 777 known to have crashed at sea.
Australian search authorities, which are leading the hunt for MH370 in the Indian Ocean some 4,000 kilometres from La Reunion, east of Madagascar, said they were confident the main debris field was in the current search area.
A Malaysian official and aviation experts have said the flaperon is almost certainly part of a Boeing 777.
Boeing has declined to comment on widely circulated photos of the debris.
However, the authorities said the wreckage discovery would neither help them narrow down their search area or solve the mystery of why the jet crashed.
"We know that it is entirely possible that debris would have reached La Reunion by now," said Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. "But you can’t go backwards [retrace the journey of the wreckage] with any reliability. ... Any floating debris would have dispersed quite markedly across the Indian Ocean."
“We know that the main debris field associated with MH370 is going to be on the bottom of the ocean, not floating on the surface," he said.
“We don’t see any basis in this for either changing or refining our search area. We still have a very high confidence in the analysis of the satellite data,” Dolan added.
READ MORE: Meet the beachcomber who may have helped solve the world’s greatest aviation mystery MH370
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss also said that while the wing part “could be a very important piece of evidence” if it was linked to MH370, using reverse modelling to determine more precisely where the debris may have drifted from was “almost impossible” due to the "vagaries of the currents" in the past 16 months.
Truss said accident investigators would be keen to examine the part, if it is from MH370, to try to find out how it may have separated from the rest of the jet and “whether there’s any evidence of fire or other misadventure on the aircraft”.
But Dolan cautioned it would be difficult to determine why the plane disappeared just from the possible flaperon.
Flight MH370 was carrying 239 people when it vanished without a trace en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The latest developments have rekindled efforts by family members of the passengers to seek greater compensation, aviation lawyers said.
Most of those on board were Chinese. Zhang Qihuai, a lawyer representing the families, said that more than 30 family members in China have already agreed to sue if the debris is confirmed to be a part of the missing plane.
Zhang said the families had discussed filing lawsuits in China, Malaysia or the United States.
"If there is evidence that the aircraft has failed, that very well may trigger a wave of lawsuits from around the world, predominantly Malaysia and China," said Joseph Wheeler, special counsel at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in the Australian city of Melbourne, who started fresh talks with more families in Malaysia since Wednesday's discovery.
However, Daniel Rose, a partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP in New York, which represents more than 50 victims’ families, said the discovery was unlikely to trigger a wave of lawsuits.
Families are pursuing a settlement with insurer Allianzthrough Kreindler, he said, but the firm could sue before the two-year statute of limitations runs out.
In January, Malaysia Airlines declared the plane’s disappearance an accident, clearing the way for it to pay compensation to victims’ relatives while the search for the missing plane goes on in a vast area 1,600 kilometres west of Australia.
"Regardless of whether our loved ones return or not, I will definitely sue Malaysian Airlines ... they have put us through so much pain and suffering, they must be held responsible," Li Zhen, whose husband was on the plane, said.
With additional reporting by Reuters