Paris prosecutor contradicts Malaysians, says no new plane debris found

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The latest on the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (all times local):


1:59 p.m. (Paris)

The Paris prosecutor’s office says there is no new airplane debris from the French island of Reunion, contradicting reports from the Malaysian government.

A spokeswoman in the prosecutor’s office, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, denied that any new material from an airplane had been turned over to French authorities. Malaysia’s transport minister had said hours earlier that new debris, including window material and metal, had been collected.

Other French officials with ties to the investigation Paris and Reunion also said they were unaware of any new debris.

— Lori Hinnant


5:30 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the discovery of the plane wing part has reopened wounds in the mystery of MH370.

Kerry, who is in Malaysia for meetings with Southeast Asian counterparts, says the U.S. hopes that the debris that was discovered on Reunion Island — if it is found to be conclusively from the aircraft — will help to bring some sense of closure.

He says perhaps even more reliable information that can be tracked from the sea currents may narrow the area of search.

He also commended the French authorities and other international experts for their diligence in the analysis of the wing as well as in the ongoing search.


4.30 p.m.

Malaysia’s transport minister says a Malaysian team at the French territory of Reunion Island has collected other plane debris including a window and some aluminum foil.

But Liow Tiong Lai says he cannot confirm they belong to Flight 370, which went missing on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board. “I can only ascertain that it’s plane debris.”

Liow told reporters “there are many items collected” from the Indian Ocean island where a wing part was found last week, which was confirmed earlier Thursday to be from Flight 370.

Liow said the new debris has been sent “to the French authorities for verification. I cannot confirm that it’s from MH370.”

Liow says Malaysia has asked authorities in neighbouring areas including Mauritius and Madagascar to help comb their beaches for possible debris to widen the search.


4 p.m.

Malaysia’s transport minister says the maintenance records of Malaysia Airlines prove conclusively that the wing part found last week on an Indian Ocean island belonged to the missing Flight 370.

Liow Tiong Lai told reporters that the Malaysian team, which is part of the investigations in France, is convinced that the one of the sealants on the wing part, known as flaperon, matches “with our maintenance records.”

He said Thursday the paint colour on the flaperon also matches with the airline’s records.

He says he understands why the French team has been less categorical about declaring the part as belonging to Flight 370.

“We respect their decision to continue with their verification. They have more verification process to make, the paint, the sealant and so on,” he said. “For the Malaysian team, the technical report and maintenance report that we have matched with the flaperon … The expert team strongly feel and confirm that it is MH370.”


2 p.m.

A travel industry analyst says that more than one piece of aircraft is needed to better understand what happened to MH370.

Henry H. Harteveldt, head of a San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, says that ideally, the search teams will find the aircraft’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders to be able to extract information to help identify what may have caused the crash.

He says that only then the ailing carrier, which has announced plans to cut more than a third of its staff and sell surplus aircraft to break even, will be able to move past the tragedies of 2014 — the MH370 and the downing of MH17 over Ukraine.

Caroline Sapriel, managing director of CS&A, which advises companies on crisis management, said that the airline must communicate the developments “sensitively to the families and all stakeholders otherwise it may end up being perceived wrongly and have a further deteriorating effect on their already tainted reputation.”


1 p.m.

China’s Foreign Ministry has reacted to Malaysia’s confirmation by saying that the result points to a conclusion that the flight crashed.

The statement by spokeswoman Hua Chunying went on to express sorrow for the passengers and deep sympathy for their families, and to demand that Malaysia make good on commitments to fully investigate the crash.

In Kuala Lumpur, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that “we have to respect the feelings of the relatives and understand the inner torment they’ve suffered in the past days. Of course, the rescue work has to be continued. We agree with the Malaysia that we need to find out the truth of the accident.”


12:30 p.m.

About a dozen Chinese passenger relatives protested outside Malaysia Airlines offices in Beijing the way Malaysian authorities handled the announcement linking the plane debris to MH370.

They held signs, including one saying “Malaysia hides the truth,” and another expressing confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping will help the relatives.

After several hours on Thursday morning, the group was invited into a closed-door talk with airline officials.

— Aritz Parra, Beijing


12:15 p.m.

Publicly, Australian officials are withholding criticism of Najib’s announcement, with Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss saying Malaysia, as the government in charge of the investigation, had the right to make that call.

“We respect the view that they believe they have sufficient evidence to make a categorical statement of that nature,” Truss told reporters. “The French inquiry, of course, has not been quite so conclusive.”

Privately, however, there were questions about why Najib had moved forward with the statement before all officials had agreed. An Australian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said Malaysia wasn’t supposed to make the announcement, and had gone out on its own making a conclusive statement before getting the evidence to back it up.

— Rod McGuirk, Canberra, Australia


9 a.m.

Families looking for closure after their relatives disappeared aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last year vent frustration at conflicting signals from Malaysia and France over whether the finding of a plane part had been confirmed.

“Why the hell do you have one confirm and one not?” asked Christchurch, New Zealand, resident Sara Weeks, whose brother Paul Weeks was aboard the flight, which disappeared March 8, 2014, while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. “Why not wait and get everybody on the same page so the families don’t need to go through this turmoil.”


6 a.m.

The Australian government, which leads the seabed search for wreckage west of Australia, is also less certain than Malaysia, saying in a statement that “based on high probability, it is MH370.”

Australia, which has sent an official to France to help examine the flaperon, says the finding will not affect its sonar search of a 120,000-square-kilometre (46,000-square-mile) expanse of seabed more than 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) east of Reunion Island. That search, which began in October, has covered almost half that area without finding any clues.

“The fact that this wreckage does now look very much like it is from MH370 does seem to confirm that it went down in the Indian Ocean, it does seem very consistent with the search pattern that we’ve been using for the last few months,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Melbourne Radio 3AW.


4 a.m.

In a statement, Malaysia Airlines says the part of the plane’s wing, known as a “flaperon,” which was found on Reunion Island on July 29, has been confirmed to be of Flight 370.

“Family members of passengers and crew have already been informed and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected,” it said.


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