Malaysian authorities have called on Indian Ocean islands to be on the lookout for debris washed up on shore after a wing part belonging to a Boeing 777 was found on the French-owned Reunion island, triggering speculation that it is linked to the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The development comes after a few locals on the island told media that they had seen what appeared to be a plane seat and luggage washed up on the beaches in May.
“It wasn’t until Wednesday that it hit me what it could have been,” Nicolas Ferrier, who monitors the coasts of Reunion, said in a Telegraph report. “It was probably part of that plane.”
Ferrier said he burned the debris he found three months ago, as he does with all the rubbish that washes ashore.
“I could have found many things that belonged to the plane, and burned them, without realizing,” he said.
Other items recently found near the suspected Boeing 777 wing part have not been confirmed as belonging to a plane.
One of the pieces spotted just north of where the wing debris was found turned out to be an ordinary ladder.
“I read all over media [the new debris] was part of a door. But I checked with the Civil Aviation Authority, and people on the ground in Reunion, and it was just a domestic ladder,” Malaysia’s Director General of Civil Aviation Azharuddin Abdul Rhaman told the Associated Press.
An AFP photographer saw police collect the mangled piece of metal with a handle covered in leather and its body inscribed with Chinese characters.
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A source with information about the investigation in Paris told reporters that “no object or debris likely to come from a plane” had been submitted as evidence on Sunday.
Malaysia now plans on expanding its search around Reunion and has asked regions nearby to notify authorities should they find any debris possibly linked to MH370, which disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board.
A spokesman in St. Andre, where the wing part was found, added that while people on the island have become more vigilant, “they are going to think any metallic object they find on the beach is from flight MH370”.