Insurers face US$450m bill for search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight
Malaysian prime minister set to visit Perth to observe multinational search for debris
Danny Lee and Angela Meng in Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will visit Perth to observe the search for flight MH370, the government said last night, as Standard & Poor's warned that insurers faced paying out up to US$450 million.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also acting transport minister, announced Najib's trip as he said he himself would fly to Hawaii to see other defence ministers at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting convened by US defence secretary Chuck Hagel.
"Our prime minister has decided to travel to Perth on Wednesday for a working visit to Pearce Airforce Base to see the operations first-hand and also to thank the personnel involved in the multinational search," Hishammuddin said.
Over the last 23 days, Malaysia has said it lacks the technical resources needed for such a search.
Hishammuddin said he would discuss with the US "the possibility of deploying more specific military assets, in the event that we need to embark on a more complex phase of the operation".
Malaysia also announced that the last words exchanged between air traffic controllers and Flight 370 were "Good night Malaysian three seven zero", and not "all right, good night" as reported previously. Authorities were trying to find out if the words were spoken by the pilot or co-pilot.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier pledged to continue hunting indefinitely for the Malaysia Airlines jet. "I'm certainly not putting a time limit on it," he said. "The intensity of our search … is increasing not decreasing."
Watch: Malaysians pay tribute to passengers of missing jet
A total of 1,110 personnel from seven nations are scouring the Indian Ocean to try to uncover evidence of what happened to the Boeing 777, which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.
Among the vessels due to join the search is Australia's Ocean Shield, which has been fitted with a sophisticated US black box locator and an underwater drone.
However, the locator would only be used if "conclusive visual evidence" of debris was found, US Navy spokesman Commander William Marks told CBS's Face the Nation programme.
Standard & Poor's said insurers were looking at a bill of between US$250 million and US$450 million. The final total would depend on whether faulty mechanics were to blame, the financial services company said.
S&P credit analyst Dennis Sugrue estimated the losses associated with the value of the plane itself would be about US$100 million, with most payouts going to relatives of those on board.
"The amount paid for each passenger could vary widely based on the jurisdiction in which the claim is filed and the nationality of the passenger, among other factors," S&P said.
This week relatives are due to meet experts in Kuala Lumpur who will attempt to answer technical questions about the plane's disappearance.