Malaysia’s claim that more debris linked to missing flight MH370 has washed up on an Indian Ocean island has been disputed by French officials.
Ever since the Boeing 777 vanished on a Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 2014, Malaysian officials have been accused of giving inaccurate statements and withholding information from families and other countries involved in the investigation.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s statement that a wing fragment found on the island of Reunion had been definitively linked to Flight 370 prompted cautious responses from French, US and Australian officials involved in the probe, who would say only the part was likely to have come from the missing plane.
Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai added to the confusion, saying a Malaysian team had found more debris on the island, including a window and some aluminium foil, and had sent the material to local authorities for French investigators to examine.
“I can only ascertain that it’s plane debris,” Mr Liow said. “I cannot confirm that it’s from MH370.”
French officials involved with the investigation in both Paris and Reunion were baffled by Mr Liow’s announcement; none were aware of any discovery or material in French custody. The Paris prosecutor’s office, which is spearheading a French legal inquiry into the crash, later denied there was any new debris.
A spokesman for Australian transport minister Warren Truss said that while a great deal of additional material has been handed to police in Reunion, none appears to have come from the plane.
Meanwhile, Mr Liow sparked further questions when he said that a maintenance seal and the colour tone of the paint on the wing part, known as a flaperon, matches the airline’s records.
An Australian government official said that the paint is not a unique identifier for Flight 370; rather, it comes from a batch that Boeing used on all its planes when the missing plane was manufactured.
Mr Liow said on Thursday that differences with other countries amounted to “a choice of words”. But the comments prompted frustration from families of those on board the plane, who have waited more than 500 days for solid clues into the fate of their loved ones.
In Beijing, about 30 Chinese relatives of Flight 370 passengers marched to the Malaysian Embassy seeking answers about why Malaysia confirmed the part came from the plane when French investigators had not.