Where is Reunion island, what happened to MH370, and when did it disappear?

Debris which could be from MH370 was found on the island, thousands of miles away from where it is believed to have crashed

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The eyes of the world have turned to the small southern Indian Ocean island of Reunion, after debris which could be from MH370 washed up there.

The wreckage is currently being taken to France for investigation, which will give an answer to the question of the fate of the plane almost a year and a half after its initial disappearance.

MH370 was a Boeing 777 plane, and there is only one missing 777 in the world - meaning that if the wreckage does indeed turn out to be this model of plane, as one aviation expert suggested, there's a high chance it will be from MH370.

According to Google Trends, these are the the most popular questions amongst people looking to know more about the mysterious disappearance of MH370. Here's the answers.

Where is Reunion?

Debris which could be from MH370 washed up on the volcanic island of Reunion

The island is in the Indian Ocean, to the east of Madagascar, and around 100 miles from Mauritius, the nearest island. Although it looks close on the map, the island is around 1,000 miles from Mozambique. a coastal nation in Africa.

Although it's almost 6,000 miles from the French capital of Paris, the island is a French overseas department.

Britain has similar outposts all over the world, in the form of British Overseas Territories, like Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.

However, unlike these territories, France's overseas departments have the same political status as any other areas in mainland France - they are represented in both houses of the French parliament, have their own members of the European Parliament, are members of the European Union, and use the euro as their currency.

Reunion islanders speak French as their official language, but many also speak Reunion Creole, an informal language made up from parts of many other tongues.

The island has a population of around 850,000, and has a tropical climate.

When did MH370 go missing?

A relative of an MH370 passenger cries shortly after the plane's disappearance

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 vanished, seemingly without a trace, on 8 March 2014.

The Boeing 777 took off at 00:35 from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It last made radar contact around an hour and a half later, at 02:22, while flying over the Indian Ocean.

What happened to MH370?

No-one knows what really happened to MH370, although investigators and aviation experts have formed a number of theories.

In January this year, the Malaysian Government released a statement saying the crash was an "accident", although by their own admission, the total lack of any evidence, including flight recordings from the aircraft's 'black box', meant that their investigations were severely limited

Children hold a vigil for the missing people who were on board MH370

They added that there was no evidence of any kind to explain the cause of the accident.

However, a later report by Malaysia's Ministry of Transport, which was released on the anniversary of the plane's disappearance, suggested that the plane was flown off course deliberately - due to the transponder being switched off by someone in the plane, rendering it invisible to civilian radar.

Other theories around the plane's disappearance, on the more fanciful side of the spectrum, suggest it was shot down and then covered up, stolen by Russia and flown to Kazakhstan, or victim of an accidental (or deliberate) sudden fire or explosion, which took it down without a trace.

Other theories, based on the fact that the plane is believed to have gone thousands of miles away from where it disappeared, claim that the pilot committed suicide - but the sheer lack of evidence, coupled with reports that captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid appeared to be in good mental health, make this theory impossible to prove.

Where is MH370?

Again, no-one knows for sure where MH370 ended up. The search for MH370 has been the most expensive search operation in aviation history, but so far has not returned anything solid.

Based on the aircraft's communications with satellites, it was eventually determined to be in a zone spanning hundreds of thousands of square miles in the southern Indian Ocean, to the west of Australia.

Oceanographers at the University of Western Australia drew up this map of where MH370 debris could have drifted

Although the plane took off from Malaysia, it was determined that it kept flying for hours after going missing - explaining why the search zone was so far away from its known flight path.

If the wreckage washed up at Reunion does turn out to be from MH370, it will mean the debris somehow moved thousands of miles across the Indian Ocean since its disapperance. Strong east-to-west currents in the southern Indian Ocean mean it is feasible that the debris could have travelled that far in almost a year and a half.

Where was MH370 going?

After taking off from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, MH370 was bound for Beijing, the capital of China, which is around 2,500 miles away as the crow flies.

It first flew in the direction of China, but just under an hour after take-off, while over the South China Sea, it reversed direction and flew back towards Malaysia. It passed over the border between Thailand and Malaysia, before heading over the Andaman Sea to the north of Indonesia. That was when it was last seen by radar.