Monday 19 February 2018

Families angry as search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to be suspended

Family members protest in Putrajaya, Malaysia (AP)
Family members protest in Putrajaya, Malaysia (AP)
Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester speaks about the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 at a joint press conference (AP)
Survey ship HMS Echo and a Lockheed P-3 Orion taking part in the search for the flight recorder from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MoD/PA)

The hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be suspended once the current search area in the Indian Ocean has been completely scoured, the three countries conducting the operation have announced.

Some families of the lost plane's 239 passengers and crew were angry over the decision to stop what is already the most expensive search in aviation history, having cost 180 million Australian dollars (£102 million).

Others continued to hold out hope.

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said: "In the absence of new evidence, Malaysia, Australia and China have collectively decided to suspend the search upon completion of the 120,000-square-kilometre (46,300-square-mile) search area."

There are fewer than 3,900 square miles left to be searched

In a statement read by Mr Liow, the ministers acknowledged that "the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading".

They said the search could be revived, but only if new evidence emerges.

"Should credible new information emerge which can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given in determining next steps," their joint statement said.

As Mr Liow and his Australian and Chinese counterparts were addressing the news conference, representatives of the passengers' families stood outside the building holding placards calling on authorities to keep trying. "Find the plane, ease our pain," read one.

Grace Subathirai Nathan, a Malaysian whose mother, Anne Daisy, was on the flight, said: "We don't want the suspension to be just a way to let everyone calm down and slowly forget about it.

"We want them to be doing something in the interim to look for new information."

Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said experts will continue to analyse data and inspect debris but added: "Future searches must have a high level of success to justify raising hopes of loved ones."

The Boeing 777 vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 2014.

It is believed to have turned back west and then south before dropping into the Indian Ocean west of Australia, where the search has been concentrated.

Much of what happened to the plane remains a mystery, though the Malaysian government has concluded that it was deliberately steered off course.

Mr Liow said the search, hampered by bad weather and damaged equipment, will end by December.

Some relatives remained hopeful that the search will resume one day.

"I feel encouraged. Fearing the worst, we now have something to hang on to," said KS Narenderan, who lost his wife, Chandrika Sharma, on the flight. "I read into it a commitment to stay engaged in the search and to hold themselves accountable to pursue the truth."

"You can suspend, but don't stop there," said Jacquita Gonzales, whose husband Patrick Gomes was a crew member on Flight 370. "Suspension can be five years, 15 years, 20 years... It's a long wait, so go back to the drawing board."


Press Association

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