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Malaysia confirms Reunion Island plane debris is from missing Flight MH370

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Police officers inspect metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.Photograph by Richard Bouhet — AFP/Getty Images

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed Thursday that a Boeing 777 wing segment discovered in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion is from the missing Flight MH370, the first real breakthrough in the search for the plane that disappeared 17 months ago.

“The international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370,” Najib said in a televised statement.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared in March last year enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.

The Boeing (BA) 777 was minutes into its scheduled flight when it disappeared from civil radars. Investigators believe that someone deliberately switched off the aircraft’s transponder, diverted it thousands of miles off course, and deliberately crashed into the ocean off Australia.

In January, Malaysia Airlines officially declared the disappearance an accident, clearing the way for the carrier to pay compensation to relatives while the search goes on.

A $90 million hunt along a rugged 60,000 sq km patch of sea floor 1,600 km (1,000 miles) west of the Australian city of Perth has yielded nothing.

The search has been extended to another 60,000 sq km (23,000 sq miles) and Malaysian and Australian authorities say this will cover 95 percent of MH370’s flight path.