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Malaysia Confirms Plane Debris Is From Flight MH370

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed on early on Thursday that a Boeing 777 wing segment discovered in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion is from the missing Flight MH370, the first real breakthrough in the search for the plane that disappeared 17 months ago.

“The international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370,” Najib said in a televised statement.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared in March last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.

(Reporting By Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah; Editing By Praveen Menon)

Photo: Debris that has washed onto the Jamaique beach in Saint-Denis is seen on the shoreline of French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, August 3, 2015. (REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)

Indian Ocean Debris Almost Certainly From A Boeing 777: Malaysia

By Joe Brock

SAINT-DENIS-DE-LA-REUNION, France (Reuters) — Malaysia is “almost certain” that plane debris found on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean is from a Boeing 777, the deputy transport minister said on Thursday, heightening the possibility it could be wreckage from missing Flight MH370.

The object, which appeared to be part of a wing, was being sent to offices of France’s BEA crash investigation agency in Toulouse to verify if it was indeed the first trace of the lost plane to be found, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

Malaysia Airlines was operating a Boeing 777 on the ill-fated flight, which vanished in March last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history.

The plane was carrying 239 passengers and crew.

Search efforts led by Australia have focused on a broad expanse of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia. Reunion Island, where the debris was found washed up on Wednesday, is a French overseas department roughly 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) away, east of Madagascar.

“The location is consistent with the drift analysis provided to the Malaysian investigation team, which showed a route from the southern Indian Ocean to Africa,” Najib said in a statement.

There have been four serious accidents involving 777s in the 20 years since the widebody jet came into service. Only MH370 is thought to have crashed south of the equator.

“No hypothesis can be ruled out, including that it would come from a Boeing 777,” the Reunion prefecture and the French Justice Ministry said in a joint statement.

Part of Wing?

Aviation experts who have seen widely circulated pictures of the debris said it may be a moving wing surface known as a flaperon, situated close to the fuselage.

“It is almost certain that the flaperon is from a Boeing 777 aircraft. Our chief investigator here told me this,” Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi told Reuters.

Abdul Aziz said a Malaysian team was heading to Reunion Island, about 600 kilometers (370 miles) east of Madagascar.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the object had a number stamped on it that might speed its 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,” he said.

Investigators believe someone deliberately switched off MH370’s transponder before diverting it thousands of miles off course. Most of the passengers were Chinese, and Beijing said it was following developments closely.

For the families of those on board, lingering uncertainty surrounding the fate of the plane has been agony.

“Even if we find out that this piece of debris belongs to MH370, there is no way to prove that our people were with that plane,” said Jiang Hui, 41, whose father was on the flight.

Zhang Qihuai, a lawyer representing some of the passengers’ families, said a group of around 30 relatives had agreed they would proceed with a lawsuit against the airline if the debris was confirmed to be from MH370.

Ocean Currents

The plane piece is roughly 2-2.5 meters (6.5-8 feet) in length, according to photographs. It appeared fairly intact and did not have visible burn marks or signs of impact. Flaperons help pilots control an aircraft while in flight.

Greg Feith, an aviation safety consultant and former crash investigator at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said his sources at Boeing had told him the piece was from a 777. Whether it was MH370 was not clear, he said.

“But we haven’t lost any other 777s in that part of the world,” Feith said.

Oceanographers said vast, rotating currents sweeping the southern Indian Ocean could have deposited wreckage from MH370 thousands of kilometers from where the plane is thought to have crashed.

If confirmed to be from MH370, experts will try to retrace the debris drift back to where it could have come from. But they caution that the discovery was unlikely to provide any more precise information about the aircraft’s final resting place.

“This wreckage has been in the water, if it is MH370, for well over a year so it could have moved so far that it’s not going to be that helpful in pinpointing precisely where the aircraft is,” Australia’s Truss told reporters.

Robin Robertson, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said the timing and location of the debris made it “very plausible” that it came from MH370, given what was known about Indian Ocean currents.

Malaysia Airlines said it was too early to speculate on the origin of the debris.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said it was working with Boeing and other officials.

Boeing declined to comment on the photos, referring questions to investigators.

Aviation consultant Feith said that if the part was from MH370, the bulk of the plane likely sank, while the flaperon had air pockets that allowed it to float below the water’s surface.

Finding the wreckage would involve reverse engineering the ocean currents over 18 months, Feith said. “It’s going to take a lot of math and science to figure that out,” he said.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Emmanuel Jarry and Matthias Blamont in PARIS, Lincoln Feast and Swati Pandey in SYDNEY, Alwyn Scott in NEW YORK, Siva Govindasamy in SINGAPORE, Sui Lee Wee in BEIJING and Praveen Menon in KUALA LUMPUR; Writing by Dean Yates; Editing by Alex Richardson and Paul Tait)

Photo: French gendarmes and police inspect a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Zinfos974/Prisca Bigot 

Malaysia Formally Declares Dead All People Aboard MH370

By John Grafilo, dpa (TNS)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia on Thursday officially declared dead the 239 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared in March, allowing the bereaved to claim compensation.

After 327 days and based on all available data, it was highly unlikely anyone had survived, said Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, chief of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation.

“All 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives,” he said in a televised statement.

“It is hoped that this declaration will enable the families to obtain the assistance they need, in particular through the compensation process,” he said.

The airliner disappeared an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8.

Azharuddin assured the families that the search for the missing MH370 would remain a priority, “with the continuing cooperation and assistance of the governments of China and Australia,” he added.

Search operations have focused on the southern Indian Ocean, where data showed the jetliner was likely to have crashed.

Thursday’s announcement drew angry reactions from relatives and loved ones in China, where most of the passengers were from, and where many have resisted declaring the missing dead before finding the wreckage.

“I hope those bastards die horrible deaths,” a man calling himself Zhang Jianyi wrote on an online forum with journalists in reaction to the move by Malaysian authorities.

“Such an announcement without any evidence — this shows lack of principles,” wrote another, calling herself Yingying.

Before the announcement, around two dozen people demonstrated outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, calling for the search not to be stopped.

“The search is not over and they have not gotten enough evidence to conclude the aircraft is lost!” said Zhang Yuxi, father of one of the passengers.

“It would be disrespectful to life and disrespectful to the Chinese people” to call off the search before finding any wreckage, he said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry put out a statement to “assure the families of all the Chinese passengers that they are always on the mind of the Party and the government, who will be with them through these trying times.”

China also called on Malaysia to fulfill all its obligations to the victims and those left behind.

The statement called on Malaysia to “fulfill its obligation of compensation, protect the lawful rights and interests of the families and provide them with support and assistance.”

“We also call on the Malaysian side to remain fully committed to the search and investigation efforts and keep the families updated on the latest progress,” it added.

Malaysian authorities faced criticism in the early days of the search for delayed or unclear information releases.

China also vowed to continue working with Malaysia and Australia in the search for the missing jetliner.

Earlier in the day, Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) called off a planned press conference after a large crowd of relatives and press rushed to the briefing area at the federal government centre in Putrajaya.

Some relatives brought pictures of their missing loved ones, others brought their children with them and waited for over two hours in vain for the press conference.

Several relatives took to the social networking site Facebook and Twitter to expressed their disgust over the government declaration.

“It’s cold and cruel,” Intan Maizura Othaman, whose husband was one of the flight crew, posted on Twitter. “Prime Minister Najib Razak, thank you sir for declaring my husband’s death to the world and not to us, family.”

“I can accept the fact that they won’t come back,” tweeted Maira Elizabeth Nari, whose father, Andrew, was the plane’s chief steward. “But justice is a must for the families of MH370.”

AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana

MH17 Pierced By ‘High-Energy Objects,’ Investigators Into Crash Find

By Dpa Correspondents, dpa

AMSTERDAM — Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 broke up in the air probably after being hit “by a large number of high-energy objects,” a preliminary Dutch report on the crash showed on Tuesday.
Images of the MH17 wreckage show that it was pierced in numerous places from the outside, causing the Boeing 777 to break up in flight July 17 over eastern Ukraine, the report said.

The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading the multination investigation, said it found no evidence that the crash resulted from a technical problem or crew error.

The report did not assign blame for the crash, but the United States and Ukraine accuse pro-Russian separatist rebels of downing the jet with a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile system.

The MH17 damage outlined by the investigators would be consistent with a strike from a missile from a Buk system, which detonate before hitting a target to maximize damage and improve the missile’s chances of destroying it.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the report backed his country’s view that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile and called on the international community to find and punish the perpetrators of the attack.

Separatist rebels said, however, that the Dutch crash report confirmed their conviction that Ukraine shot down the airliner.

“It is obvious that this was a provocation carried out by the Ukrainian armed forces to discredit Russia and the insurgency,” separatist commander Miroslav Rudenko told Russia’s Interfax news agency from the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

All 298 people on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed. A majority of the passengers were Dutch.

The Dutch Safety Board has not had access to the crash site, which is in an area that has seen fighting between Ukraine government forces and the rebels. It relied on photographs taken during short visits to the site by Ukrainian and Malaysian investigators, data from MH17’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders, air traffic control communications, satellite images, and radar information to issue its preliminary findings.

“The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash,” said Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board. “More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision.”

The board said it expected to release a final report by the first anniversary of the crash.

It said it plans to visit the crash site if it is safe to do so, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak demanded that investigators be allowed to return.

The plane crashed near Hrabove village in the Donetsk region, an area controlled by the rebels, who restricted investigators’ access to the site.

“It is of the utmost importance that the investigation teams gain full and unfettered access to the crash site in order to recover all human remains, complete their investigation, and establish the truth,” Najib said.

However, his defense minister, Hishammudddin Hussein, said the crash site is “currently volatile and inaccessible” after meeting Tuesday with senior military officials in Kiev.

Malaysia was among the nations contributing to the investigation. They also include Ukraine, Australia, Russia, Britain, and the United States.

The initial inquiry found the plane “broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”

The jet’s black boxes and its communications with air traffic controllers showed no emergency or technical problems but that the flight was operating normally until “it ended abruptly.”

The investigators said they believe the damage the plane sustained caused it to break up in-flight because its wreckage was scattered over a large area. Its communications with air traffic control also suddenly halted, it disappeared from radar, and the recording of data on its black boxes ended abruptly, the report said.

Before the report was issued, the remains of two more Malaysian victims of the crash were returned Tuesday to Kuala Lumpur, Najib said.

So far, 34 bodies of the 43 Malaysian victims have been repatriated from Amsterdam, where all the bodies were being examined by international forensics experts.

The other victims were 193 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, a Canadian, and a New Zealander.

AFP Photo/Genya Savilov

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