PUTRAJAYA: There is only 10,000sq km to go of the 120,000sq km search area and there is still no sign of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Malaysia, Australia and China have agreed to suspend the search if the aircraft is not discovered after the search zone is completely scoured.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said that with less than 10,000sq km left to be covered, the search will not continue unless “new credible evidence” is found.
The joint decision was made in a tripartite meeting here, involving Liow, China’s Minister of Transport Yang Chuantang and Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester.
“In the absence of new credible evidence, we have collectively decided to suspend the search upon the completion of the 120,000sq km search area.
“I must emphasise that this does not mean that we have given up on locating MH370.
“If any new credible evidence emerges, the three countries will continue to work together to analyse the evidence.
“The families and the loved ones of the passengers and crew members of MH370 remain the priority. We understand this will be a difficult time for them and we are committed to doing everything within our means to assist,” said Liow at a joint press conference here.
The search, which has covered over 110,000sq km in the Indian Ocean, is currently on hold due to bad weather and damage to equipment, but Liow said it was expected to resume in October.
MH370 was bound for Beijing, China, from Kuala Lumpur. It disappeared at 12.41am on March 8, 2014 and has become world aviation’s biggest unsolved mystery.
Satellite communication analysis revealed that the plane had diverted its flight path and flew into the southern part of the Indian Ocean.
Liow said the investigation team had also updated the meeting on the probe into the debris that was found washed ashore in several places including La Reunion island, Mozambique and South Africa.
He said four pieces of debris as well as a flaperon have been tested by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and the French government, and were deemed “almost certainly” from MH370.
He added that there were another eight pieces of debris which have yet to be tested.
Liow also said the location where the debris were discovered was “consistent” with the MH370 drift modelling pattern, proving that the 120,000sq km search zone was right.
“We are confident we are searching in the right area. This is based on the views of experts from various countries, who helped identify the search area.
“The debris’ drifting modelling pattern showed that it was from the right search area. However, the debris does not pinpoint the exact location of the aircraft,” Liow said.
Liow was questioned during the press conference on a “controlled ditching” theory, in which it was suggested that the missing Boeing 777 glided into the water, rather than diving into the ocean.
“At the moment, we do not have evidence to confirm that it was a controlled ditching,” he replied.
Liow also said cost was not a factor in deciding to suspend the search.
The minister also said all data and information collected from the search would be released to the public.
“Yes, we will reveal all the data. But all of this needs time for compiling,” he said.
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