More than a year after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished without a trace, authorities are preparing to officially confirm if a newly discovered piece of debris came from the ill-fated Boeing 777.
The debris — a wing flap fragment known as a "flaperon" — washed up on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion on July 29, setting off an intense analysis involving French, Malaysian, and Australian investigators.
According to the Australian government, the results of the examination could be ready within days.
"Malaysian and French officials may be in a position to make a formal statement about the origin of the flaperon later this week," deputy prime minister Warren Truss said in the statement.
If officials can confirm that the flaperon came from MH370, it would be the most significant development in the long-running search for the plane since it disappeared March 8, 2014.
Officials have already determined that the flaperon came from a Boeing 777 — the same model as the missing plane. The wing fragment was discovered by sanitation workers who were cleaning the beach near the town of Saint-André.
An Australian study also confirmed that debris from MH370 could have drifted to La Réunion.
The "drift model" for the crash shows that while much of the debris would have sunk or been dispersed, the overall trajectory could have carried it "north and then west away from the accident site", according to the report.
That trajectory could have carried it to La Réunion and other places in the region. Meanwhile, the search for additional clues about what caused the jet to go down, and exactly where it happened, remains ongoing, and currently covers a vast area of 120,000 square kilometers, Truss said in the statement Tuesday.
Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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