Hope of finding flight MH370’s final resting place is “fading” and the massive three-nation search for the doomed jet will be suspended if nothing turns up in the suspected crash zone, Malaysia, Australia and China said Friday.
With the designated search area due to be fully scanned within weeks, transport ministers from the three countries held talks to discuss the future of the unprecedented deep-sea sonar hunt for the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane.
“Ministers acknowledged that despite the best efforts of all involved, the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said after the talks in the country’s administrative capital Putrajaya.
He was joined by Australia’s Darren Chester and China’s Yang Chuantang.
Unless “credible new evidence” is found by the current operation, “the search would not end, but be suspended” until solid new information pointing to a crash site emerges, Liow said.
The use of the term “suspended” was an apparent nod to anguished families who have stepped up pressure on authorities not to declare efforts to locate the aircraft completely abandoned.
“The suspension does not mean the termination of the search,” the joint ministerial statement said.
“Ministers reiterated that the aspiration to locate MH370 has not been abandoned.”
The Boeing 777 vanished for unknown reasons on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard, mostly Chinese nationals. It remains one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.
The Australian-led operation is scanning the seafloor at forbidding depths within a 120,000-square-kilometre (46,000-square-mile) area — nearly the size of Greece.
Search authorities say satellite data indicates the plane went down somewhere in that remote and stormy part of the southern Indian Ocean far off Western Australia.