Malaysia-China-Australia to suspend MH370 search upon completion of 120,000 sq km

Malaysia-China-Australia to suspend MH370 search upon completion of 120,000 sq km
The suspension does not mean we have given up (efforts) to locate MH370, says Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai (C) at the joint press conference on Friday. - Twitter Photo
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia, China and Australia will suspend but not terminate the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 upon completion of the priority 120,000 square kilometre search area.

This was disclosed in a joint communique released in conjunction with the MH370 Ministerial Tripartite Meeting held in the Malaysian administrative capital today, involving the transport ministers of Malaysia, China and Australia.

The joint statement read out by Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in a press conference after chairing the tripartite meeting reiterated that the aspiration to locate flight MH370 had not been abandoned.

"The suspension does not mean we have given up (efforts) to locate MH370," said Liow.

Flight MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared from radar shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur enroute to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

The jetliner has yet to be found despite massive search operations in the southern Indian Ocean where the aircraft was believed to have ended its flight after diverting from its original route.

Liow stressed that the suspension did not mean the termination of the search.

He said in the spirit of the tripartite: "If there are any new credible evidences we will continue to work and analyse those evidences." 
Suspended until new information emerge

Liow said the decision to suspend upon the completion of the 120,000 sq km search area in the absence of credible new evidence was made collectively during the meeting.

"Cost is not a factor in considering the suspension," he said when asked if cost was the factor.

Liow said the search would be suspended until new credible information and data emerged to determine the aircraft's exact location.

To-date, more than 110,000 sq km had been searched. 

The less than 10,000 sq km remaining search area could be completed by October but it could be dragged to December depending on the weather and sea condition, he said.

'We looked at the right area'

Liow defended the current search area as the right area based on the experts' views and findings.

He said the debris found could not provide the exact location of the aircraft but it was in line with the drift modelling patterns based on various experts' views.

"We are still confident that we were looking at the right area after we found debris drifting pattern from that particular area," he said.

Liow said four pieces of debris tested by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) had almost certainly shown they originated from the MH370 while eight more pieces of debris were yet to be examined.

The debris were found in La Reunion Island, South Africa, Mauritius, Mozambique, Madagascar and Tanzania.

A flaperon which was found on La Reunion of French island in July last year had been confirmed as from MH370.

The two-metre-long flaperon that was found in the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion has confirmed by JACC to be from MH370.

Asked if the MH370 investigation team would be releasing the probe data, Liow said: "We will reveal all data but we need a little time because of the big volume to be compiled."

Australian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester, who was also at the joint press conference, said the authorities remained hopeful that the plane would be found in the search area.

"This decision (to suspend the search) has not been taken lightly nor without some sadness and we want to emphasise our work is continuing," he said. 

China's Tranport Minister Yang Chuantang at the joint press conference said that China was willing to bear the operation cost of the remaining 10,000 sq km search area.

"We will continue to cooperate to bring closure to the families," he said.