There is a "decreasing possibility" that missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will ever be found, an Australian official said, as only a small proportion of the search zone remained to be scanned.
More than 105,000 square kilometres of seafloor in the southern Indian Ocean had been searched as of last week. The governments of Malaysia, Australia, and China have agreed not to extend the search beyond the initially agreed 120,000-sq-km area.
There were still "good prospects" of finding the plane but "we have to contemplate now the possibility that we will not find the aircraft," Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, told the British Guardian newspaper late Monday.
The ATSB is the authority leading the search for flight MH370, which went missing on March 8, 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. There were 239 people on board.
So far a total of five pieces of plane debris judged to come from MH370 have been discovered in South Africa, Mozambique, Mauritius and Reunion Island. The authorities have described their locations as consistent with computer models of where the ocean currents may have taken the debris from the presumed crash site.
The three countries involved have spent close to 150 million dollars on the search.