Malaysia says airplane debris found on Reunion Island is part of a Boeing 777

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French gendarmes and police inspect a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Zinfos974/Prisca BigotThomson ReutersFrench gendarmes and police inspect a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia said on Sunday that airplane debris that washed up on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion has been identified as being from a Boeing 777, the same model as Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 which vanished early last year.

"We know the flaperon has been officially identified as being part of a Boeing 777 aircraft," Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a statement.

"This has been verified by French authorities together with aircraft manufacturer Boeing, U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Malaysian team comprising the Department of Civil Aviation, Malaysia Airlines, and Malaysian ICAO Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team for MH370."

This discovery is significant considering the only missing Boeing 777 in the world is Flight MH370. Investigators are now working to determine whether the debris belongs to MH370. Ocean barnacles identified on the wreckage are thought to be about a year old, which would fit with the timeline of when MH370 disappeared.

MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

(Reuters reporting by Praveen Menon, Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Kim Coghill)

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