On-the-ground visit: Abbott being greeted by Royal Malaysian Air Force 20th Squadron officer Mejar Mohd Jafri Suboh during his visit to RAAF Pearce air base in Bullsbrook. — Bernama
PERTH: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott backed Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak when the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was lost in the remote Indian Ocean.
Many relatives of those on board have been incensed at the announcement on March 24 by Najib that – based on detailed analysis of satellite data – the plane could be presumed lost at sea.
“That’s the absolutely overwhelming wave of evidence and I think that Najib was perfectly entitled to come to that conclusion and I think once that conclusion had been arrived at, it was his duty to make that conclusion public,” Abbott said yesterday.
The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing vanished on March 8 carrying 239 passengers and crew, but more than three weeks later, no wreckage has been found.
But Abbott said he agreed with Najib’s conclusions.
“The accumulation of evidence is that the aircraft has been lost and it has been lost somewhere in the south of the Indian Ocean,” he said at the Perth military base coordinating the search.
Australia is coordinating the international hunt for the missing Boeing 777.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult exercise. We are searching a vast area of ocean and we are working on quite limited information,” Abbott said.
The Australian leader refused to put a time limit on the search, saying: “We can keep searching for quite some time to come.
“The intensity of our search and the magnitude of our search is increasing, not decreasing,” he said.
Yesterday, Australian officials said a cluster of orange objects spotted by a search plane on Sunday turned out to be nothing more than fishing equipment.
Former Australian defence chief Angus Houston has begun his job of heading the new Joint Agency Coordination Centre, which will oversee communication with international agencies involved in the search.
Houston will also play a prime coordination role when victims’ families travel to Australia in the weeks ahead.
The Australian warship Ocean Shield, which is carrying a US device that detects “pings” from the missing plane’s flight recorders, left Perth yesterday for the search zone, a trip that will take three to four days.