KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Aug. 6 (UPI) — Airplane seat cushions and window panes are among the debris found Thursday on a French island in the Indian Ocean, the same location where fragments of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 were found last week.
Malaysia’s transport ministry said a search team on Reunion Island discovered airplane window parts, seat cushions and aluminum material that appeared to belong to an aircraft. Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said “many items” are being investigated for a link to Flight 370, which went missing in March 2014.
The announcement came hours after Prime Minister Najib Razak “conclusively” determined the wing part, called a flaperon, was part of 370, an announcement that has been highly criticized as jumping the gun on the confirmation.
The Australian-led search team, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, said it will not change its course of searching the waters off the Western Australia coastline despite the discovery on Reunion Island, some 2,500 miles away.
“A great deal of additional material has been handed over to the police on La Reunion,”the agency said in a statement. “While this is being examined, so far none of it appears to have come from an aircraft.”
The conflicting information has added yet another layer of confusion to an already chaotic situation for family members who have been agonizing for the past 17 months.
Wednesday, Chinese relatives of passengers aboard the plane marched outside the Beijing offices of Malaysia Airlines, rejecting the claim that the flaperon belonged to the Boeing 777. Some called the discovery a lie and “fake debris,” insisting their loved ones can still be rescued. Most passengers were Chinese.
“We hope that President Xi can quickly help us rescue our people,” said Zhang Yongli, a 64-year-old whose daughter was on the plane. “We can only hope the government and the relevant authorities will help us do this. Our families don’t have the means to do this on our own.”