Islanders throughout the Indian Ocean region have been keeping a close eye on the shore since a Reunion Island council worker found a wing part purportedly belonging to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 earlier this month. Australia was no exception: Residents there have recently turned in a package of five-minute noodles and a luggage tag in hopes they'll help with the investigation. The items were likely not from MH370, but officials said they were happy people were looking.
"It’s very challenging for investigators to find something that can be linked to the aircraft -- it would really have to be some form of debris from the aircraft," Judith Zielke, chief coordinator of the joint agency coordination center, told News.com.au. "But we encourage people to bring anything unusual or out of place forward. It’s far better that we investigate and rule it out."
MH370 vanished March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board. The disappearance launched a yearlong search that turned up nothing, and investigators ultimately determined the flight had likely crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. The Reunion Island debris, which Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said last week was "conclusively confirmed" to be from MH370, was the first official proof the plane went down -- although other authorities withheld judgment. But basic questions about the disappearance -- why, how and where -- remained unknown.
Beachgoers want to solve the mystery. The Reunion Island finding inspired a heightened vigilance for islanders, International Business Times previously reported. Residents flooded investigators with potential pieces of evidence, including a Frisbee, wallet, old shoes, metal scraps and tea kettles. "There is a sort of treasure hunt mentality that is taking hold, and people are calling us for everything," an unnamed official said at the time.
In the nearby Maldives, people alerted authorities to flat pieces of debris that washed ashore. Malaysian investigators were reportedly working to determine whether they came from an aircraft. Some have suggested the wreckage originated from a barge that capsized there in February.
Investigators have also told countries like Madagascar and South Africa to be on the lookout for possible plane parts.