Tiny, little-known Reunion Island enters the big mystery of MH370

CNN goes on volunteer led MH370 search
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Story highlights

  • Debris believed to be from a Boeing 777 washed ashore last week, putting Reunion Island in an international spotlight
  • "We are looking for whatever the sea could give back," says a leader of the search for more debris

Saint-Denis, Reunion Island (CNN)It's a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, unknown to many until the news last week.

A piece of debris, believed to be from a Boeing 777, washed onto the beaches of Reunion Island. It could be the biggest breakthrough yet in the search for MH370, which disappeared in March 2014.
It's given people here hope in finding clues but also a shared pain for the loved ones of passengers who were aboard the Malaysian Airlines plane that disappeared without a trace.
    "People find it terrible," says Cecil Dupre, who runs Reunion Island's volunteer sea rescue service, Sauveters En Mer.
    They feel a connection to MH370. "Everyone was so shocked by the way this plane disappeared. Without any explanation," Dupre explains.
    But it's also more personal than just a headline. Family ties are strong here on this French island.
    "It's a small place, and people are concerned for the families of those that went missing on MH370," explains Dupre. They're "very concerned not to know where the bodies of the victims of MH370 are."
    MH370 families still wait for news and closure
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    Search for clues

    Residents have been scouring the coastline for days.
    More than a dozen objects have been handed in since a purported 777 flaperon was found last week. But so far, nothing is even under consideration as linked to the piece -- save for a suitcase under examination near Paris.
    They're searching the seas, too, that surround Reunion Island, which lies roughly 700 kilometers (435 miles) east of Madagascar, off the southeastern coast of Africa.
    Dupre's team usually focuses on things such as boat rescues and diving accidents. But right now, they're looking for clues.
    They have a small vessel with basic equipment. There's no high technology here, just radios and word of mouth.
    But they are doing what they can.
    It's French tradition for sailors to take part in the sea rescue and do something for their community, Dupre tells CNN.
    They don't find anything during a search, but they're not giving up.
    "They say the sea has its own way of working," says Dupre. "We are looking for whatever the sea could give back."