Hopes of finding MH370 ‘fading’, search suspension looms

(From left) Australia’s Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and China’s Transport Minister Yang ChuanTang at the press conference on MH370 in Putrajaya July 22, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
(From left) Australia’s Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and China’s Transport Minister Yang ChuanTang at the press conference on MH370 in Putrajaya July 22, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, July 22 — Hope of finding flight MH370’s final resting place is “fading” and the massive three-nation search for the doomed jet will be suspended if nothing turns up in the suspected crash zone, Malaysia, Australia and China said today.

With the designated search area due to be fully scanned within weeks, transport ministers from the three countries made the announcement after discussing the future of the unprecedented deep-sea hunt for the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane.

“With less than 10,000 square kilometres of the high priority search area remaining to be searched, ministers acknowledged that despite the best efforts of all involved the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading,” said a joint statement after the meeting in Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya.

Unless “credible new evidence” turns up by the time the current operations are completed, “the search would not end, but be suspended” until solid new information pointing to a crash site emerges, they said.

“The suspension does not mean the termination of the search. Ministers reiterated that the aspiration to locate MH370 has not been abandoned,” said the statement read out by meeting host Liow Tiong Lai of Malaysia as Australia’s Darren Chester and China’s Yang Chuantang looked on.

The Boeing 777 vanished March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard, mostly Chinese nationals, in what remains one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.

The Australian-led operation is scouring the seafloor within a 120,000-square-kilometre belt of remote Indian Ocean far off Western Australia, where authorities believe MH370 went down.

The use of the term “suspended” was an apparent nod to anguished families who have stepped up pressure on authorities not to completely close the book on efforts to locate the aircraft.

Some relatives have raised doubts over whether the right area is being searched and have called for a thorough reassessment of satellite data used to determine the suspected crash zone.

Several next-of-kin who turned up for a press briefing by the three ministers told reporters they welcomed the official statement.

“This means authorities are committed to finding answers and not just quitting. This is to be welcomed,” said K.S. Narendran, a business consultant in Chennai, India, whose wife Chandrika Sharma was on board.

Several pieces of debris that apparently drifted thousands of kilometres toward the African coast have been identified as definitely or probably from the Boeing 777 but have shed no light on where exactly the plane went down or why.

Authorities hope to find a crash site and eventually recover and examine the flight data recorders for clues into what happened. — AFP

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