Malaysia: MH370 search to end next week

The search for flight MH370 will end next week, more than four years after the plane disappeared and triggered one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.

The search for flight MH370 will end next week, Malaysia’s transport minister said yesterday, more than four years after the plane disappeared and triggered one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.

The Malaysia Airlines jet vanished in March 2014 with 239 people — mostly from China — on board, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

No sign of the jet was found in a 120,000-square-kilometer sea search zone, and the Australian-led hunt, the largest in aviation history, was suspended in January last year.

After pressure from family members, the former Malaysian government struck a deal with US exploration firm Ocean Infinity to restart the search in January on the condition it would only be paid if the Boeing 777 or its black boxes were found.

The firm stood to make up to US$70 million if successful but did not find any sign of the jet despite scouring the seabed with some of the world’s most high-tech search equipment.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke, part of the new government that came to power following May 9 elections, said the hunt was officially meant to finish in April but had been extended, and would come to an end next week.

“The search will continue until May 29,” he told reporters. 

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said earlier that the contract with Ocean Infinity was being reviewed, as his administration seeks to cut costs after accusing the allegedly corrupt former government of leaving the public finances in bad shape.

Grace Nathan, a Malaysian lawyer whose mother Anne Daisy was on the plane, said the news was not a surprise but said the government should leave the “no find, no fee” offer on the table in case a company wants to take on the search in future. “We can’t tell (the government) what to do but for me and the families ... finding the plane is important for many reasons,” she said.

In a letter to the new administration released before the end of the search was announced, Voice370, a group representing families of those on the plane whose members include Nathan, urged the government to undertake a “comprehensive review” of all matters related to the plane’s disappearance.

It also called for “an investigation into any possible falsification and/or elimination of records related to MH370.”

The new hunt was in an area of about 25,000 square kilometers in the southern Indian Ocean, north of the former search area. The ship conducting the hunt, Seabed Constructor, was a Norwegian research vessel carrying 65 crew.

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