The discovery of a piece of aircraft wing on an island in the Indian Ocean sparked an air, land and sea search, with investigators hoping to connect the debris to the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner, NBC News reported.
Beaches were being combed and boats were scouring the waters off Reunion Island as helicopters flew overhead the French territory, east of Madagascar off the southern tip of Africa.
Boeing investigators have looked at photos of the barnacle-covered plane piece found by a crew cleaning the coastline on Wednesday and say that they believe it is from one of their 777s, sources told NBC News. It appears to be a piece of a flap from a wing. There is only one such aircraft missing in the world right now — Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Local media also reported Thursday that the remains of a suitcase had also been found in the same area where the debris was recovered. Officials did not immediately comment on the reports.
"This is obviously a very significant development," Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told a news conference in Sydney early Thursday.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was carrying 239 people when it disappeared about an hour into its journey from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China, on March 8 last year.