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Posted: July 29, 2015

US official: Debris belongs to same type of aircraft as missing Malaysia plane

Police and gendarmes carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. (Photo: YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
YANNICK PITOU
Police and gendarmes carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. (Photo: YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)

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A U.S. official says air safety investigators have a "high degree of confidence" that a photo of aircraft debris found in the Indian Ocean is of a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared last year.

The official says investigators — including a Boeing air safety investigator — have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a 777 wing.

>> RELATED: 5 things to know about possible MH370 debris found on Reunion Island

A French official close to the investigation confirmed Wednesday that French law enforcement is on site to examine a piece of airplane wing found on the French island of Reunion, in the western Indian Ocean. The U.S. and French officials spoke on condition that they not be named because they aren't authorized to speak publicly.

At the United Nations, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters that he has sent a team to verify the identity of the plane wreckage.

"Whatever wreckage found needs to be further verified before we can ever confirm that it is belonged to MH370," he said. "So we dispatched a team to investigate on this issue."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Experts are analyzing a piece of a wing discovered Wednesday to determine whether it belongs to Flight MH370 Malaysia Airlines which was reported missing in March 2014.

The debris was reportedly found by coastal workers off Reunion Island, located in the western region of the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. Initial information indicates that it is a wing flap and has been in the water for a long time and has collected sea life. 

If the debris is not connected to the missing Boeing 777-200ER, it will also raise questions of where the debris came from.

239 people were aboard Flight MH370 on March 8, 2014, when it vanished from radar shortly after leaving Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. No trace of the aircraft or its occupants have been recovered. 

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