, SYDNEY, July 31- Australian search authorities Friday said they were “increasingly confident” plane debris that washed up on a tiny Indian Ocean island is from missing flight MH370, with formal identification possible within 24 hours.
The two-metre (six-foot) long piece of wreckage — found on the French island of La Reunion — was expected to arrive in France on Saturday where it will be analysed.
“We are increasingly confident that this debris is from MH370,” Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the agency leading the underwater search in the southern Indian Ocean, told AFP.
“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.”
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which had 239 people on board, was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it mysteriously turned off course and vanished on March 8 last year. No trace of the plane has been found despite a massive search.
Dolan said the shape of the object that was found “looks very much like a very specific part associated only with 777 aircraft”, with investigators also set to look up an identification number on the debris.
Several experts were convinced the wreckage was a flaperon from the wing of a Boeing 777.
“We won’t be able to directly narrow it down to MH370 but one of the questions obviously we’ll be working with Boeing and others on is if this is the sort of part that we think it is, potentially a flaperon, are there any other recorded cases of 777 aircraft losing their flaperons,” the search head added.
“We believe that’s not the case. That’s the loop we have to close at this point.”