MH370 search: Volcanic eruption on Réunion 'wouldn't hamper' debris search
Published 31/07/2015 | 11:45
A volcano has erupted on the island where debris from missing Flight MH370 may have been discovered.
Officials have said they do not expect the lava explosions from the Piton de la Fournaise volcano on the eastern side of the island to disrupt ongoing search efforts however as any debris suspected of belonging to the missing Boeing 777 aircraft has been found on the west coast of Réunion.
A travel ban has been imposed on the Réunion due to the eruption this morning, officials said.
This is the third time this year that mount Piton de la Fournaise has erupted, and the development comes as experts say it is "increasingly likely" that the wreckage washed up on the French island is from the doomed Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.
A Chinese water bottle and an Indonesian cleaning product have have been found near washed up debris thought to be from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Aviation authorities believe the six-foot bit of airline wreckage with the code number BB670, found on Reunion island in the Indian Ocean, appears to be part of a wing from the missing MH370 aircraft.
In what appeared to be the biggest breakthrough in the almost 17-month search for the Boeing 777, the debris, which locals said was "covered in shells", was found during a clean-up of a beach on the east coast of the French island, about 100 miles from Mauritius and 4,000 miles from the aircraft's last known location.
As Malaysian officials were dispatched to the island, the country's deputy transport minister said said it was "almost certain" that the debris belongs to a Boeing 777 aircraft.
Read More: Families of MH370 victims renew talk of compensation after debris find
"It is almost certain that the flaperon is from a Boeing 777 aircraft. Our chief investigator here told me this," Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said.
Aviation experts have identified the debris from photos as a wing flaperon, used to control the plane's roll and provide extra lift or drag.
Malaysia experts are due to arrive in the island to examine the piece before it is flown to the French city of Toulouse, where it is due to arrive on Saturday.
The debris is due to be verification by the BEA, the French authority responsible for civil aviation accident investigations.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said initial reports suggest the debris is "very likely to be from a Boeing 777".
Flight MH370, which disappeared almost 17 months ago, is the only unaccounted-for 777 in the world.
The Malaysia Airlines flight vanished while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014.
There were 239 passengers and crew on board the plane when it went missing.
Read More: Conflicting theories as to what exactly caused flight to mysteriously disappear
Authorities hunting for missing flight MH370 are “increasingly confident” that wreckage found on an Indian Ocean island is from the ill-fated jet, the Australian official leading the search has said.
Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian transport safety bureau, said on Friday that authorities were “increasingly confident” the debris came from MH370.
“The shape of the object looks very much like a very specific part associated only with 777 aircraft,” Dolan told Agence France-Presse.
“We are still working with our French and Malaysian colleagues to analyse 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. We’re hoping within the next 24 hours.”
In a BBC interview on Friday, Mr Dolan said that if the wing piece, known as a flaperon, was from a 777, then MH370 was the only known possible source.
He also said the operation was continuing "in the right place" in the southern part of the ocean.
However, Mr Dolan also said the discovery of debris would not help pinpoint where the plane went down.
"Over the last 16 or 17 months, any floating debris would have dispersed quite markedly across the Indian Ocean," he told the AFP news agency.
Reunion is roughly 3,700 km from the broad expanse of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia where search efforts have been focused.
Guided by signals from the plane that were detected by satellite, authorities believe MH370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
Australian boating enthusiast Stephen Knight said it was not surprising that debris from the flight could have washed up so far from were experts where searching.
Mr Knight lost his boat in rough seas near the Australian city of Perth in 2013. It washed up on a small island off Madagascar nine months later.
Knight's story adds weight to widespread conviction that vast, rotating currents sweeping the southern Indian Ocean could have deposited wreckage from MH370 near Africa.
"When I heard about the finding of the wing I thought about my boat," Mr Knight told Reuters.
"The wing is obviously a lot lighter in structure than what my boat would have been. The fact that the wing has taken longer and travelled less far in distance - it all adds up."
The discovery of the debris has rekindled efforts by family members of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight to seek greater compensation.
Most of those on board were Chinese.
Zhang Qihuai, a lawyer representing the families, told Reuters more than 30 family members in China have already agreed to sue if the debris is confirmed to be a part of the missing plane.
Joseph Wheeler, special counsel at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in the Australian city of Melbourne, also said he had started fresh talks with more families in Malaysia since Wednesday's discovery.
"It's triggering renewed monitoring and recommendations to families," Mr Wheeler told Reuters.
"If there is evidence that the aircraft has failed, that very well may trigger a wave of lawsuits from around the world, predominantly Malaysia and China," he said.