French officials are investigating plane wreckage that on Wednesday washed ashore on the island of Reunion, near Madagascar, for possible links to a Malaysian airplane that vanished without a trace in March 2014.
American air safety investigators say the debris found on Reunion appears to be from the same type of plane as the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 aircraft. An unnamed U.S. official told the Associated Press that investigators have a "high degree of confidence" that a photo of the wreckage found in Reunion shows a wing component unique to the Boeing 777.
The investigators identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a 777 wing.
"Police in Reunion examining the wreckage say that it looks like it's been in the water for around a year, which again would fit with MH370. We can't say for certainty, but we do think there is a chance that this is it," Xavier Tytelman, a French expert in aviation security told The Telegraph earlier on Wednesday.
He added, "But if the flaperon does indeed belong to MH370, it's clear that the reference will be swiftly identified. In a few days we will have a definitive answer."
In a press conference on Thursday, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the discovery of the airplane fragment was being viewed as a "major lead" in the search for MH370.
"It's the first real evidence that there is a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found," Truss said.
The piece of debris had a number stamped on it that could help speed verification.
"This kind of work is obviously going to take some time although the number may help to identify the aircraft parts, assuming that's what they are, much more quickly than might otherwise be the case," Truss said.
On March 8, 2014, 239 people boarded the flight in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, destined for Beijing. About an hour and a half after takeoff, Flight MH370 vanished from radar screens. A multi-nation search scoured a large expanse of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia.
No plane wreckage has ever been found, and in January, Malaysian authorities officially declared that all on board were presumed dead.
Also on HuffPost: