Live Update: What we know about the discovery of MH370 debris so far

Live Update: What we know about the discovery of MH370 debris so far

Debris was found on Reunion Island, French Indian Ocean territory. Keep an eye on this article for updates!


Crew members of a French Air Force Casa aircraft during a search mission for debris of flight MH370, east of La Reunion, France.
Photo: EPA


Chinese relatives of passengers aboard MH370 protest in Beijing.
Photo: EPA


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) confirms the debris discovered on the Reunion Island belongs to MH370.
Photo: Xinhua

[Update - 1.40pm, August 10]

  • The Maldives joined a regional search for wreckage from missing flight MH370 following reports that islanders in the Indian ocean atoll nation had spotted unidentified debris.

    • Maldivian police are responding to several sightings of debris washed up along the northern atolls of the archipelago, some of which occurred about a month ago, a police spokesman said.

    • “There is new attention to these sightings after the discovery at Reunion,” the spokesman said.

  • The hunt for more wreckage from the missing MH370 resumed on France’s Reunion island in the Indian Ocean on Sunday after being suspended due to bad weather.


Timeline: The search for Flight MH370

[Update - 1.03pm, August 6]

  • Chinese relatives of passengers aboard missing flight MH370 demanded to be taken to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
    “Our demand is to go to Reunion island and look for ourselves,” said Hu Xiufang, who had three relatives, including her son, on board the plane. 

[Update - 10.28am, August 6]

  • France says it will launch new searches by air, land and sea from Reunion island to hunt for more possible MH370 wreckage.
  • The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, which is in line with the same currents as Reunion, is on the lookout for potential airplane debris from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. 
  • The Paris prosecutor’s office says there is no new airplane debris from the French island of Reunion, contradicting reports from the Malaysian government.
    Other French officials with ties to the investigation Paris and Reunion also said they were unaware of any new debris.

[Update - 5.23pm, August 6]

  • Chinese relatives of the passengers on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have “serious doubts” over Kuala Lumpur’s proof announcement that the flaperon found on La Reunion was from the aircraft.
    •  In a handwritten statement posted on Sina Weibo and signed “All MH370 passengers’ relatives”, they demanded a high-level Malaysian government representative meet them and “provide explanations”.

[Update - 5.16pm, August 6]

  • Aircraft seat cushions and window panes have been found on an Indian Ocean island where wreckage from MH370 was recovered, Malaysia’s transport minister 

[Update - 4.57pm, August 6]

  • Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai says a Malaysian team at the French territory of Reunion Island has collected other plane debris including a window and some aluminum foil. 
    • Liow says the new debris has been sent “to the French authorities for verification but he cannot confirm they belong to Flight 370.
    • Malaysia has asked authorities in neighboring areas including Mauritius and Madagascar to help comb their beaches for possible debris to widen the search. 
  • The Malaysian team, which is part of the investigations in France, is convinced that the one of the sealants on the wing part, known as flaperon, matches with maintenance records of Malaysia Airlines. 
    • The paint colour on the flaperon also matches with the airline’s records. 
    • Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai says he understands why the French team has been less categorical about declaring the part as belonging to Flight 370.
      “We respect their decision to continue with their verification. They have more verification process to make, the paint, the sealant and so on,” he said. “For the Malaysian team, the technical report and maintenance report that we have matched with the flaperon ... The expert team strongly feel and confirm that it is MH370.”

[Update - 2.20pm, August 6]

  • A travel industry analyst says that more than one piece of aircraft is needed to better understand what happened to MH370. 
    • Ideally, the search teams will find the aircraft’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders to be able to extract information to help identify what may have caused the crash, said Henry H. Harteveldt, head of a San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group.
  • The airline must communicate the developments “sensitively to the families and all stakeholders otherwise it may end up being perceived wrongly and have a further deteriorating effect on their already tainted reputation”, said Caroline Sapriel, managing director of CS&A, which advises companies on crisis management. 

[Update - 1.22pm, August 6]

  • China’s Foreign Ministry has reacted to Malaysia’s confirmation by saying that the result points to a conclusion that the flight crashed.
    • In Kuala Lumpur, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that “we have to respect the feelings of the relatives and understand the inner torment they’ve suffered in the past days. Of course, the rescue work has to be continued. We agree with the Malaysia that we need to find out the truth of the accident.”
  • The group of Chinese passenger relatives was invited into a closed-door talk with Malaysia Airlines officials after hours of protest.

[Update - 11.56am, August 6]

  • China called on Malaysia to continue investigating what happened to MH370.
    In a statement on the foreign ministry website, spokeswoman Hua Chunying also urged Malaysia to "earnestly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests" of the families of the victims.
  •  The relatively intact condition of the wing piece that washed up on Reunion island off Africa suggests the Boeing Co. 777 may have hit the water more gently than in a head-on crash, according to former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigators Greg Feith and Jim Wildey, and Hans Weber, president of aviation consultant Tecop International Inc.

    • "That piece maintained its integrity. It’s not crushed," Feith, a former senior investigator with the NTSB. "You can deduce it was either a low-energy crash or a low-energy intentional ditching."

[Update - 10.55am, August 6]

  • Most of the passengers aboard the missing MH370 were Chinese, and around a dozen relatives gathered outside the Beijing offices of Malaysia Airlines, with emotions running high.
    •  “I don’t believe this latest information about the plane, they have been lying to us from the beginning,” said Zhang Yongli, whose daughter was on board.
    • Bao Lanfang, whose grandson was also on the plane, told reporters, ”Everyone has been lying to us”, before collapsing on the floor and crying.

    •  On a social media group other relatives expressed similar sentiments, saying: “Don’t believe them! They must have switched the debris! We do believe all our relatives will come back safe and sound!”

[Update - 10.40am, August 6]

  • French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak said initial tests showed there were "very strong indications" that it was from flight MH370. But he said confirmation would only come after further tests on the fragment, which would begin on Thursday.
  • The Australian government, which leads the seabed search for wreckage west of Australia, is also less certain than Malaysia, saying in a statement that “based on high probability, it is MH370.”
  • Australia, which has sent an official to France to help examine the flaperon, says the finding will not affect its sonar search of a 120,000-square-kilometer expanse of seabed more than 4,000 kilometers east of Reunion Island. “Family members of passengers and crew have already been informed and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected,” Malaysia Airlines said in a statement confirming the flaperon to be of Flight 370. 

[Update - 4:05am, August 6]

  • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has confirmed that the flaperon found on Reunion Island last week is from the missing MH370 plane. 

  • International experts examining the plane part in France had "conclusively confirmed" it is from the aircraft, which vanished more than a year ago. 

[Update - 1pm, August 3]

  • French and Malaysian aviation experts will meet together with police and magistrates in Paris today to coordinate their work in the investigation.

  • The flaperon found on Reunion Island last Wednesday has been “officially identified” as from Boeing 777, according to a statement by Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai.

  • Metallic debris found by locals on the island on Sunday, believed to be connected to the missing MH370 plane, was not found to belong to an airplane.

    • One metal item, according to Malaysian director general of Civil Aviation Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, was found to come from a domestic ladder, not from part of a plane door.

    • Police on Sunday also collected a metal piece with two Chinese characters attached to what seemed to be a leather-covered handle. Chinese internet users have suggested that it may be a kettle.

  • “People… are going to think any metallic object they find on the beach is from flight MH370, but there are objects all along the coast, the ocean continually throws them up,” said Jean-Yves Sambimanan, spokesman of Saint-Andre town where the wing debris was found.


[Update - 3:30pm, July 31]

  • Australian authorities said today that the discovery of plane wreckage, even if found to be from MH370, would not narrow down the location of the main debris field or solve the mystery of why the jet crashed.

  • The wreckage, found on a beach on the French island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean, is expected to be analysed in France on Saturday.

[Update - 3:05pm, July 31]

  • New reports claimed a Chinese water bottle and Indonesian cleaning product have washed up onshore. The bottle and canister were found after a local beachcomber discovered a mangled suitcase shell on Saint-Andre, the same place where the wing flap was found.


[Update - 12.28pm, July 31]

  • Australia is confident searching in the right area for MH370.
     “We remain confident that we’re searching in the right place, and if in fact the plane parts found on Reunion Island are linked to MH370, that would rather strengthen the case that we are in the right area,” said Transport and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss.
     He added: “The fact that this wreckage was sighted on the northern part of the Reunion Island is consistent with the current movements” from the search area.

[Update - 11.54am, July 31]

  • “We are increasingly confident that this debris is from MH370,” Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau which is leading the MH370 search, told AFP.

[Update - 10.33am, July 31]

  • French authorities moved the plane piece from the beach to the local airport on Reunion, and will send it next to the city of Toulouse, where it may arrive Saturday morning local time, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. French investigators will examine the piece under the supervision of Malaysian authorities. The plane wreckage will be analysed by the laboratory specializing in “investigations after accidents of the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA), according to the newspaper Le Figaro.

  • Even if it is confirmed to be a long-awaited first clue to the disappearance of Flight 370, there’s no guarantee investigators can still find the plane’s recorders or other remains.

[Update - 5.54pm, July 30]

  • Malaysia has dispatched a team of experts to Reunion Island to investigate if the debris belongs to MH370.

    “The ministry would like to state that until there is tangible and irrefutable evidence that the flaperon does belong to the missing aircraft, it would be premature to speculate at this juncture,” the Transport Ministry said in a statement. “This is to ensure that we do not raise false hope for the loved ones of the victims of MH370.”

[Update - 4.38pm, July 30]

  • A damaged suitcase was recovered in Saint-Andre, the coastal town on the island where the wing flap was found, according to local reports.

    Pictures and French-language reports showed a local man holding the badly mangled debris resembling luggage. However, it was as yet unclear if the discovery was linked to the plane.

[Update -2.56pm, July 30]

  • Relatives of the 239 people aboard the flight have been in an agonising limbo since the plane disappeared on March 8, 2014. Now many relatives remain skeptical and say they are waiting for more definitive word.

    • Jacquita Gomes is torn about whether to believe that plane debris found is the first concrete evidence that her husband is truly gone. Not believing could allow her to keep alive the hopes of many relatives that the airliner and her husband, a flight attendant, landed somewhere unscathed in a hijacking plot — though the discovery seemed to make that possibility more remote than ever.

    • A group of many of the Chinese relatives said in a statement that they wanted authorities to be 100 percent certain the part was from MH370, and that, even if so, it should not dampen the resolve to find the rest of the wreckage, the whereabouts of all the passengers and the reasons for the disappearance.

[Update - 2pm, July 30]

  • A lot of Chinese families refuse to believe the debris found belongs to the missing MH370, according to Chinese media Sohu and Tencent: 
    • "I would like to believe they are still alive and well, as long as there are no bodies found," said Ms. Cheng, whose husband was on board.
    • "I would want to wait a couple of days until it's certain, I'm a little overwhelmed right now," said Xu Jinghong, whose mother was on the plane.


[Update - 1.24pm, July 30]

  • Vast, rotating currents sweeping the southern Indian Ocean could have deposited wreckage thousands of kilometres from where it is thought to have crashed, oceanographers said.

  • If confirmed to be part of the missing Boeing 777, experts will try to model its drift to retrace where the debris could have come from, although they cautioned it was unlikely to help in narrowing down the plane’s final resting place beyond the vast swathe of ocean off Australia that has been the focus of the search for months.

[Update - 1.02pm, July 30]

  • Boeing engineers studying photos have determined the part came from a 777, a person familiar with the investigation told Bloomberg. While that’s the same model as the missing aircraft, it isn’t clear whether the debris is from that plane.

  • The part is likely a flaperon from a 777 (a flaperon is a movable panel on the rear of the wing that’s used to bank the wings, and it can also be moved to expand the wing’s size during takeoff and landing) according to a second person familiar with the development.

  •  "It may be able to tell us something, depending on the type of damage," said Joe Hattley, a spokesman for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, "It’s possible that something that went into the ocean off the Western Australian coast has now drifted to the Western Indian Ocean. It’s been 16 months."

[Update - 12.48pm, July 30]

  • There are no other missing 777s, if the piece is confirmed to be from such an aircraft, it would almost certainly have to belong to Flight 370.

  • The number BB670 visible on wing flap is a vital clue for authorities to confirm quickly (i.e. within 24 hours) if it is linked to MH370 by confirming it’s a Boeing 777. Former US National Transport Safety Bureau investigator Greg Feith said every manufacturer puts a data tag on every part that goes on an aircraft, apart from things such as screws. It could be a part number, serial number, bar code or other information. 

[Update - 12.20pm, July 30]

  • One witness in La Reunion said the object was “covered in shells”, indicating it had been in the water for a long period of time.

  • Malaysia Airlines issued a statement saying: “At the moment, it would be too premature for the airline to speculate (on) the origin of the flaperon.” 

  • “Whatever wreckage is found needs to be further verified before we can further confirm whether it belongs to MH370,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said, adding that he hoped for answers “as soon as possible”.

  • Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister, Abdul Aziz Kaprawi, said the team included experts from Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation and Malaysia Airlines, who would be joined by representatives from Boeing, maker of the 777-200 aircraft. “We expect in two days we can complete the verification,” Abdul Aziz said.

[Update - 12pm, July 30]

  • China is "seeking to confirm the situation with relevant countries" and "will pay close attention to developments"

[Update - 11.41am, July 30]

  • France’s air crash investigation agency is studying a piece of plane debris found on Reunion Island off the east coast of Africa
  • The part is roughly 2-2.5 metres in length, according to pictures of the debris.
  • A US official said air safety investigators – including a Boeing air safety investigator - had a "high degree of confidence" the debris was from the same model as MH370.
  • The component had been identified as a “flaperon” from the trailing edge of a 777 wing, said the US official.
  • French investigation agency BEA said the part had not been identified.
  • Malaysia said it had sent a team to Reunion Island to verify whether the washed-up debris was from MH370.
  • The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said it was working with Boeing and other officials. Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan said it could take today or longer to ascertain.
  • Eric Chesneau, an officer in the air transport police on Reunion cautioned about rushing to conclusions, in response to speculation on social media. "People are getting ahead of themselves over this."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow @youngposthk on Twitter.


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