The wing fragment was discovered by public workers cleaning up the coastline near the town of Saint-André on the French island, which sits in the Indian Ocean near the island of Madagascar.
Air safety investigators have a “high degree of confidence” that photos of the debris showed a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared on March 8, 2014, an unnamed U.S. officialtold the Associated Press.
The portion of wing has been identified as a flaperon from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777. There are no other 777 planes known to be missing worldwide, making it likely the debris came from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement Thursday, it was “very likely” the debris was from a Boeing 777, but urged caution, saying it was “too early to speculate” whether or not the debris belonged to the missing jetliner.
Razak said the debris would be sent to the offices of the French authority responsible for civil aviation accident investigations (BEA) in Toulouse, where a Malaysian team was heading. Another Malaysian team is also traveling to Réunion.
“It is almost certain that the flaperon is from a Boeing 777 aircraft,” Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi earlier told Reuters. “Our chief investigator here told me this.”
Kaprawi said it will take “less than two days to verify if it is so and whether it is from MH370.”
The Australian government — which has played a major role in the ongoing search for Flight 370 — said it was aware of the debris discovery, but that Malaysia was in charge of the investigation, with assistance from Boeing.
“It’s the first real evidence that there is a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found,” Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss told reporters. “It’s too early to make that judgment, but clearly we are treating this as a major lead.”
If it determined that the wing fragment is from Flight 370, “it would be consistent with other analysis and modeling that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern Indian Ocean,” Truss said.