Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean – much in the news after a section of B777 wing, almost certainly from doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, was found washed up on the beach – was the centre of other dramatic events over the weekend.
Further debris thought to include an aircraft door was found on another beach there and a large volcano on the island, Le Piton de la Fournaise, suddenly erupted, leading authorities to ban access to the volcano and making it impossible to carry out air searches for more debris related to MH370.
The volcano, located on the south-east side of La Reunion, is a World Heritage site and favourite spot for tourists, who fly over it in helicopters and zoom up the side of a waterfall, a truly thrilling experience.
According to Reunion’s tourism website, the volcano “has its place amongst the most active volcanoes on the planet, with an average of one eruption every nine months”. Lava flows are now creeping down the volcano’s side as it blasts gas in the air. A full eruption could follow.
Meanwhile, dramatic tales are unfolding down at the beach. The piece of B777 wing, a section known as a flaperon, has been sent to Toulouse in France for investigation. It is expected to be confirmed as part of missing MH370 on Wednesday or Thursday.
Yesterday, other debris initially reported to include the door of a plane was found washed up on another beach on the island. Sky UK sources reported last night that a door had been found, adding it was not known whether the door was from a B777. Updates this morning suggest the metallic debris found by locals may not be an aircraft door after all.
The “door” find followed disclosures by Reunion Island locals living close to the beach that debris of various sorts has been washing up for weeks or months. They say the piece of B777 wing that made headlines around the world when found last month in fact washed ashore in May and then washed out again, only to reappear.
Some people say they have found suitcases on the beach. Perhaps most alarming, local garbage collector Nicolas Ferrier told a reporter from London’s Daily Telegraph that he found a seat on the beach in May, which could have come from the doomed plane. He thought it was a bus seat and burned it on the shore – his job is to find rubbish and burn it.
Ferrier said he found a couple of suitcases around the same time “full of things” and burned them as rubbish.
He said that as he doesn’t listen to the radio or watch television, he knew nothing of the furore surrounding MH370.
In a memorable quote, he told the paper: “Malaysia Airlines is a bit like bin Laden. No one had ever heard of it – then suddenly we talk about nothing else.”
Written by Peter Needham