Update as of 7:30 a.m. EDT: A Malaysian official said Friday that a number stamped on the debris recovered from the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean confirms it came from a Boeing 777.
"From the part number, it is confirmed that it is from a Boeing 777 aircraft. This information is from MAS (Malaysia Airlines). They have informed me," Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi told Agence France-Presse.
Original story below:
Australian search authorities are “increasingly confident” that the debris found on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean is from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, an official leading the search reportedly said Friday. The six-foot piece of wreckage has fueled hopes that one of aviation's greatest mysteries may finally be solved.
Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the MH370 search, echoed the words of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday that the debris is “very likely” from a Boeing 777 aircraft, the same type as the missing jet. Dolan reportedly said that he is hoping for greater clarity “within the next 24 hours.” However, he also cautioned that no conclusion should be drawn unless there is enough evidence to link the debris with the plane.
"We are increasingly confident that this debris is from MH370," Dolan told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "The shape of the object looks very much like a very specific part associated only with 777 aircraft."
French authorities will send the debris to a military laboratory near Toulouse, France, for investigation, while a team of Malaysian investigators are expected to reach the Réunion Island, a French territory near Madagascar in Africa, on Friday.
The island is nearly 2,300 miles from the area in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia where search efforts for the missing Flight MH370 have been underway for over a year. Despite an international search, which has become the costliest in aviation history, no concrete clues have emerged that could provide long-awaited answers to the mystery of the plane's disappearance.
On Thursday, Australia described the latest development in the search for the missing plane "a major lead."
Since there are no other missing Boeing 777 planes, if the debris is confirmed to be from such an aircraft, it would be the first wreckage of the plane to have been found. Flight MH370 went missing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
"I presume that if this wreckage does turn out to be from a Boeing 777 that the analysts will do their best ... to try to work out exactly where it came from," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Australian radio. "I don't know how accurate that will be but I dare say it will give us some more evidence and it might enable us to further refine the search area, it might."