The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is to be suspended after the current search area is completed, ministers from Malaysia, Australia and China said Friday.
The decision was made during a meeting in Kuala Lumpur of transport ministers from the three countries, which are conducting the search for the Beijing-bound aircraft that disappeared on March 8, 2014.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, who chaired the day-long ministerial meeting near Kuala Lumpur, said the decision to suspend the search was a consensus among the three countries.
Malaysia, China and Australia are spearheading the search for the missing aircraft.
But Liow emphasized that they have not given up the hope of locating flight MH370, which was believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
“If new credible evidence on the location of the aircraft emerges, we will work together to analyse the evidence,” he told a press conference after the tripartite ministerial meeting in the federal government centre of Putrajaya.
Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said it is not viable to continue the search after the current area is completed, without new information on the aircraft’s whereabouts.
“This decision was not taken lightly nor without sadness and I want to emphasise that our work is continuing in analysing data, inspecting debris and considering all new information,” he said.
“We have been mindful that any future search needs to have a high likelihood of success to justify raising the hopes of family and friends,” he added.
Chester assured the families of the victims that the searchers are doing all they can to locate the missing plane.
“We have used the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field,” he said.
So far, 90 per cent of the current 120,000 square kilometres of the search area in the southern Indian Ocean have been completed, but without finding the missing aircraft.
Liow said the hunt in the remaining area has been delayed due to bad weather, adding the current search might go on until December.
Relatives of the 239 people aboard the missing aircraft appealed to the governments of China, Malaysia and Australia to continue looking until the plane is found.
“They must keep their promise to continue the search until the plane is found,” Grace Nathan, whose mother was among the passengers, told dpa. “We need to have closure."
Jacquita Gonzales, whose husband Patrick, was among the flight attendants on MH370, called on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to make good his promise to continue the search.
“We want the truth,” she said. “The plane has to be found so we will know what really happened.”
So far, only pieces of debris from MH370 have been discovered in South Africa, Mozambique, Mauritius and Reunion Island.