KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The search area for Flight MH370 will be doubled if the missing Malaysia Airlines plane cannot be found, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said today.
“I would like to announce that the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China — we are committed to search for MH370.
“If we cannot locate the aircraft within the 60,000 square feet, we’ll continue the second phase of another 60,000-square-kilometre search,” Liow told reporters here.
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and China’s Transport Minister Yang Chuantang were also present at the press conference.
Truss said the expanded search area is likely to have a “broadly similar” seabed to the current area due to their proximity, further stating: “We expect the search will take at least the rest of the year to complete the second 60,000 square kilometres.”
In a joint statement, the three ministers said they recognised that “the additional search area may take up to a year to complete given the adverse weather conditions in the upcoming winter months”.
“Upon completion of the additional 60,000 square kilometres, all high probability search areas would have been completed,” the statement said.
A tripartite meeting was held earlier today between Malaysia and search partners China and Australia to discuss the hunt’s status after the May deadline as a year-long search since Flight MH370 disappeared in March last year has failed to yield any leads.
The commercial jet disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board.
On January 29 this year, the Malaysian government declared the loss of Flight MH370 as an accident under international aviation regulations.
Yesterday, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said in an operational update that more than 60 per cent of the priority search area has been searched, adding that the current underwater search area may be largely completed around the search deadline of May if there are no delays.
The search is jointly funded by Australia and Malaysia, with both splitting the A$120 million (RM325 million) pledged so far.
Following the tripartite meeting today, Liow said the expanded search phase for Flight MH370 would likely cost an additional A$50 million.
Liow also thanked all those involved in the strategic search working group for MH370 — including Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, aircraft manufacturer Boeing, the US National Transportation Safety Board, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the Civil Aviation Administration of China.