Kuala Lumpur: Debris found on an Indian Ocean island last week is from MH370, Malaysia`s prime minister announced on Thursday, confirming for the first time that the plane which mysteriously disappeared 17 months ago had crashed.
"Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts has conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370," Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters.
"We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean."
Najib`s announcement ended an agonising wait for families of the 239 passengers and crew who had demanded concrete proof of what happened to their missing loves ones.
But next-of-kin, investigators, and the aviation industry were still left with the vexing question of what caused the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft to inexplicably divert on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
Some relatives in Malaysia told AFP after the announcement that it brought no emotional closure as long as the final resting place of their loved ones, and the cause of the plane`s disappearance, remained a mystery.
"Now I want to know where the main body of the plane is so that we can take out the passengers and get the black box so we can know what happened. Only that, for us, will be full closure," said Jacquita Gonzales, wife of MH370 chief steward Patrick Gomes.
Najib gave no indication that the analysis of the debris yielded any clues.
He stressed in his announcement that, despite the largest search effort in aviation history and investigations by leading aviation experts, the case of MH370 remained a mystery.
"The days, weeks and months that followed have been a period of torment for the families of those on board," Najib said.
"I would like to assure all those affected by this tragedy that the government of Malaysia is committed to do everything within our means to find out the truth of what happened," he said.
"MH370`s disappearance marked us as a nation. We mourn with you, as a nation."
The flight veered out over the Indian Ocean, apparently flying for more than six hours after its communications and tracking systems were shut off.
The piece of debris, a wing component called a flaperon, was found last week on a beach on the remote French island of La Reunion, near Madagascar.
It was flown to the French city of Toulouse, where it was examined on Wednesday by French and Malaysian technical experts, and representatives from Boeing, to determine any link to MH370.
Many relatives have accused Malaysia`s government and the airline of a bungled response to the disaster, possible cover-up, and insensitive treatment of families, charges that are vehemently denied.
"I`m still not satisfied. There are still so many questions left unanswered, so many holes in the puzzle," said Lee Khim Fatt, whose wife, Foong Wai Yueng, was a flight attendant.
"Until today we have no answers. Don`t just show me a flaperon. Show me more. Answer the questions."