Kuala Lumpur, April 16: Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai on Thursday said the search area in the southern Indian Ocean for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, now missing for over a year, will be extended if the aircraft is not found by May.
MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. A search for wreckage is underway in the Indian Ocean, but no sign of the plane or its passengers has yet been found.
Air searches have covered an area of more than 4.5 million sq km, while four ships are now carrying out a search of 60,000 sq km.
The search will be extended by another 60,000 sq km, the Malaysian Star quoted the minister as saying.
“If the aircraft is not found in the current area, Malaysia, Australia and China have collectively agreed to extend the search area within the areas with the highest probability of where the plane could be,” he said after chairing a ministerial tripartite meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
Also present at the meeting were Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang.
The new planned search is estimated to cost less than what was needed for the first phase of the search, Truss said.
“We are determined to do whatever we can to find and give answers to the families of those on board. We have the best search equipment in the world to help us find MH370 and we are confident we are in the right search area.”
“We are optimistic that we can recover the aircraft,” the Australian minister added.
Yang said China was committed to continue searching for the aircraft until “the plane was found”.
“I would say we have fully honoured our words that the search will never be relaxed and in spirit of cooperation. We will continue until we find the craft so we can find the mystery and give solace to the next-of-kin,” he said.
On January 29, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) declared the flight’s disappearance an accident.