Saturday, 7 March 2015

MH370 search to continue, says Malaysia

Malaysia said on Friday that the search for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared in March last year with 239 people on board will continue.

“So far, over 26,000 sq km of the seafloor, or over 40 percent of the total priority zone, have been searched for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370,” said Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, according to a Xinhua report.

The search vessels have been focussing on a 60,000 sq km priority zone, with the hunt scheduled to end in May.

Asked if the search for the jet would end after the entire priority zone was scoured, Liow said: “It totally depends on the conclusion of the experts, including those involved in the investigation of the incident.”

He said Malaysia had already spent about 60 million ringgit (about $18 million) on the search, which is also funded by Australia and supported by China.

The minister said that weather condition in the south Indian Ocean was comparatively good now and one more ship from Malaysia was expected to join the search operations.

Former Australian defence chief Sir Angus Houston says he remains hopeful of a breakthrough.

The flight, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared from radar over the South China Sea on 8 March 2014 with 239 passengers and crew on board.

Sir Angus, who heads the joint agency coordination centre overseeing the search for MH370, met the families of those on board the doomed aircraft on Thursday, and told ABC TV in Australia they were anxious for answers.

“It’s very important that we continue the search to try and find the aircraft, and hopefully find the aircraft, so that they can reach that closure that they so much desire,” he said on Friday.

He said the ongoing Australian-led search had already scoured 43% of the high-priority area.

“I think on the balance of probabilities at the moment, the chances of finding it are still good, and we should be patient and persist with the search,” Sir Angus said. “I’m still quietly optimistic that ... one day, hopefully very soon, we might wake up and hear that it’s been found.”

He said any future decision to scale back or call off the search would be made “in full consultation” with Malaysia and China.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s transport minister said on Saturday that if the undersea search failed to turn up anything by the end of May, the three countries leading the effort will re-examine data and come up with a new plan.

Liow Tiong Lai told reporters that he remains cautiously optimistic that the Boeing 777 should be in the area of the southern Indian Ocean where the search has been ongoing.

Lai said that Australia, Malaysia and China were due to meet next month to discuss the search efforts.

“By the end of May, if we still can’t find the plane, then we will have to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “We rely on the expert group ... to come up with the plan. I am cautiously optimistic it should be in this area.”

The Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared enroute from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8, 2014.

So far no trace of either the plane’s debris or bodies of the people on board has been found despite the massive surface and underwater hunt.

The search is jointly carried out by Australia, Malaysia and China in the Indian Ocean some 1,600 km off Australia’s west coast, with four ships using sophisticated sonar systems to scour a huge underwater area.

Earlier, the Malaysian government had declared that the plane had met with an accident and all the people on board were presumed dead.

Saturday 7 March 2015

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