France yesterday launched a hunt for more wreckage from the ill-fated MH370 plane off Reunion Island in a fresh effort to shed light on one of aviation’s biggest mysteries.
The tiny French Indian Ocean territory has been under intense scrutiny since a beach cleaner found a washed-up wing part last week, which Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak later declared was part of the Boeing 777 that mysteriously vanished 17 months ago.
The flaperon is being examined by experts in southern France for possible clues as to why the Malaysia Airlines aircraft inexplicably veered off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and there are hopes that Reunion may yield more washed-up debris.
In nearby Mauritius, authorities are also searching for any possible plane parts that may have landed on their shores.
Aline Simon, a French officer, said a military transport plane had taken off from a base in the north of Reunion Island to search for debris off the coast.
The hunt for potential plane parts will also involve foot patrols, helicopters and maritime units, the government said in a statement late on Thursday.
Since the discovery of the 2m-long flaperon last week, people on the island have come forward with countless objects they think may look like plane parts.
Malaysian Minister of Transportation Liow Tiong Lai said on Thursday that more possible MH370 objects — aircraft seat cushions and windows — had been discovered on Reunion Island, but that any MH370 link “had to be verified by the French authorities.”
However, a French judicial source said that French investigators had not received any new items. The Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8 last year, sparking the largest search operation in history, now focused on the southern Indian Ocean based on satellite data hinting at the plane’s path.
Australian authorities, which are leading the search, expressed renewed confidence that they were looking in the right area.
“The finding of this piece of wing gives us hope that we are searching in the right location, given the tides and currents and drift patterns,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Australian television from Malaysia.
French prosecutors involved in the analysis of the flaperon have been more cautious, saying only that there was a “very high probability” it came from the Boeing 777.
However, Liow said that certain characteristics of the wing part, including its paint, matched MH370 maintenance records — backing up Najib’s announcement that it was part of the plane.
Najib’s televised statement was not universally welcomed by relatives of the 239 people on board the jet, with some expressing skepticism and fresh criticism of officials’ handling of the disaster.
“There is no conclusive evidence that this part belongs to the Boeing,” said Ghislain Wattrelos, who lost his wife and two of his children on the flight.
“It’s not 100 percent [sure] like the Malaysian prime minister said,” Wattrelos said.
Chinese relatives of passengers aboard MH370 marched to Malaysia’s embassy in Beijing yesterday, some demanding to be taken to Reunion.
“We want to go to the island and see the truth,” said Lu Zhanzhong, whose son was on the plane.
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit