Jet search chiefs discuss next move
Published 02/05/2014 | 07:57
Senior officials from Malaysia, Australia and China will meet early next week to decide on the next step in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.
They expressed confidence today that the hunt is on the right track despite no wreckage being found so far.
Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the challenges were huge but told reporters: "I believe we will find MH370 sooner or later."
He said he will travel to Canberra for the meeting on Monday on the approach to deployment of assets, engagement with victims' families and expert and technical advice.
An unmanned submarine continues to scan the Indian Ocean floor off western Australia where sounds consistent with a plane's black box were detected in early April.
Additional equipment is expected to be brought in within the next few weeks to scour an expanded underwater area. The aerial search for surface debris ended this week.
Angus Houston, the Australian head of the search operation, said he was confident the wreckage was in that area, based on the most promising leads.
He said, however, that the probability of the US Navy's Bluefin 21 robotic sub finding the wreckage is "lower than it was when we started the search".
He said the ministerial meeting was crucial to "formalise the way ahead to ensure the search continues with urgency and that it doesn't stop at any stage".
Mr Houston said the search could take another eight to 12 months but "we are totally committed to find MH370".
He also said that Bangladeshi ships, including a vessel fitted with sonar equipment, had so far found nothing in the northern Bay of Bengal, where a resource survey company, Australia-based GeoResonance Pty Ltd, had claimed it found possible plane wreckage.
According to Mr Hishammuddin, Malaysia is still considering whether to hire private deep sea vessels to search the Bay of Bengal area as it could distract the main search and cost involved would be high.
The Malaysian Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.