Malaysia has sent a team to verify whether plane debris washed up on an Indian Ocean island could be part of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, its transport minister has said.

"I have sent a team to verify the wreckage," Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters in New York after a UN Security Council debate on the Malaysian jet shot down over Ukraine.

Debris washed up on Reunion Island off the east coast of Africa, but it is unclear if it is from the missing flight, believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean.

A US official has said investigators have a "high degree of confidence" that the debris found is from a Boeing 777 – the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared.

"People are getting ahead of themselves over this," Eric Chesneau, an officer in the air transport police of the French ndian Ocean territory, said in response to speculation on social media. "It is more than likely plane debris, (but) we don't know what exact part it may be."

No trace has been found of the Boeing 777, which disappeared in March last year carrying 239 passengers and crew from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing, in what has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. Most of the passengers were Chinese.

Search efforts led by Australia have focused on a broad expanse of the southern Indian Ocean.

Neither the French civil aviation authority DGAC nor the BEA, the agency responsible for investigating aviation accidents, were immediately available for comment.