Experts confirmed Wednesday that a fragment of an airplane wing that washed up on an island in the western Indian Ocean last week did come from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, according to Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Speaking at a news conference today, Razak said experts who convened in France to analyze the part — found on Reunion Island on July 29 — had determined it did in fact originate from the Boeing 777 that disappeared more than a year ago while carrying 239 people.
"It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you, an international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion is indeed from MH370," Razak said on Wednesday. "We now have physical evidence that...Flight MH370 tragically ended in the Southern Indian Ocean."
Reunion is just east of Madagascar, roughly 3,800 miles from where the plane was last spotted near the southern tip of Vietnam. 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.
After it turned up on Reunion, the wing fragment was sent to France for further analysis by the French civil aviation investigation department (BEA), along with experts from Malaysia and Australia, with the purpose of determining whether or not it had come from MH370. Beyond determining the origin of the part, the experts will also investigate what might have caused the crash.
The 2014 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 search sorties by military aircraft. The effort cost nearly $94 million and is considered the most expensive search operations in aviation history.
After departing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014, the Beijing-bound plane flew northwest over Malaysia toward Vietnam, and was last sighted on radar 140 miles southwest of Vietnam, 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.
This is a breaking news update. Check back for more updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this Report.