Officials from Malaysia, France, and Australia are saying a piece of an airplane wing that washed ashore on a remote French island in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday is most likely part of the missing Malaysian flight MH370.
The debris was loaded onto crates at the island's airport outside Saint Denis, CNN reported, and is being shipped to France, where experts will work to verify that the components belong to the missing plane.
On Friday, Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian agency coordinating the underwater search for the plane, told CNN he is "increasingly confident, but not yet certain" that the wreckage is from MH370. The component appears to be a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a 777 wing.
"The only 777 aircraft that we're aware of in the Indian Ocean that could have led to this part floating is MH370," Dolan said.
The debris washed ashore on Wednesday on Reunion island, a remote landmass just east of Madagascar, roughly 3,800 miles from where the plane was last spotted near the southern tip of Vietnam before it vanished on March 8, 2014. Municipal employees found the fragment of an airplane wing, which is approximately two meters long and one meter wide, off the coast of Saint Andre, a community on the remote island.
Meanwhile, just hours after the debris was discovered, a volcano on the other side of the island began to erupt. The volcano is one the most active in the world, having erupted more than 150 times in the last 400 years. Though the latest eruption may lead to an evacuation of the island, officials in Paris said the debris is still expected to arrive in Toulouse, where aviation investigators will analyze it in detail next week.
The plane's disappearance led to an international effort to canvass a nearly 23,000-square-mile search zone. The initial search involved 19 ships and 345 sorties by military aircraft. The effort cost nearly $94 million and is considered the most expensive search operation in aviation history.
The Beijing-bound plane flew northwest over Malaysia toward Vietnam, and was last seen somewhere in the vicinity of the Gulf of Thailand, according to Vietnamese officials. There were conflicting reports immediately after the plane's disappearance about when exactly air traffic controllers lost radio contact. At first, officials reported that they could no longer contact the plane two hours after takeoff, but the figure was later revised to one hour.
Officials expressed confidence Friday that more details about the crash would soon emerge. Malaysian officials told the AFP that they are closer to "solving the mystery" of MH370.
"We are still working with our French and Malaysian colleagues to analyze all the information so we don't have certainty yet, but we hope that within the next little while we'll be able to get to that level of confidence," Dolan told the AFP. "We're hoping within the next 24 hours."