Search area for MH370 to be doubled if plane still not found

Malaysia, Australia and China, have reiterated their commitment to search for the missing airliner that disappeared on March 8 last year.

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KUALA LUMPUR // The search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be expanded in the Indian Ocean if the jetliner is not found by May, officials said on Thursday affirming their commitment to press on until it is located.

Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said that Malaysia, Australia and China, which are leading the hunt for the Boeing 777 that went missing on March 8 last year, are “committed to the search”.

After meeting his counterparts from the other two countries, he said that so far 61 per cent of the 60,000 kilometre search area has been scoured off Australia’s west coast.

The remaining 39 per cent would have been searched by the end of May, he said.

“If the aircraft is not found within the 60,000 square kilometres, we have collectively decided to extend the search to another 60,000 square km within the highest probability area,” he said. However, searchers are hopeful that they can find the plane in the current search area.

The announcement removes some ambiguity about the future of the search as it was never made clear what would happen if the plane is not found. It will also come as a solace to the relatives of the victims, who are holding out the hope of recovering the bodies.

Mr Liow said the two areas together would cover 95 per cent of the flight path of the plane, which went missing while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. Most of the passengers were Chinese.

It dropped off the radar, and investigators said satellite data showed it made a series of turns and headed in a completely opposite direction from where it was going before crashing into the Indian Ocean.

“We are confident we are searching in the right area,” Australian deputy prime minister and transport minister Warren Truss said at the news conference, alongside Mr Liow.

“We are confident we have the best search equipment ... if the plane is in the area we will find it.”

Australia and Malaysia have been sharing the cost and will continue to do so, said Mr Truss.In January, Malaysia’s government formally declared the plane’s disappearance an accident and said all those on board were presumed dead. A comprehensive report into the disappearance found no significant anomalies in the flight, except that the battery of the locator beacon for the plane’s data recorder had expired more than a year before the jet vanished.

* Associated Press