Senior officials from Malaysia, Australia and China will meet early next week to decide on the next step in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, while expressing confidence on Friday that the hunt was on the right track despite no wreckage being found so far.
Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that the challenges were huge but he told reporters, “I believe we will find MH370 sooner or later.”
Hishammuddin said he will travel to Canberra for the meeting on Monday on the approach forward regarding deployment of assets, engagement with victims’ families and expert and technical advice.
An unmanned sub continued to scan the Indian Ocean floor off western Australia where sounds consistent with a plane’s black box were detected in early April. Additional equipment is expected to be brought in within the next few weeks to scour an expanded underwater area. The aerial search for surface debris ended this week.
Angus Houston, the Australian head of the search operation, said he was confident the wreckage was in that area based on the most promising leads. He said, however, that the chance of the US Navy’s Bluefin 21 robotic sub finding the wreckage are “probability ... lower than it was when we started the search.”
Houston said the ministerial meeting was crucial to “formalise the way ahead to ensure the search continues with urgency and that it doesn’t stop at any stage.”
He said that the search could take another eight to 12 months but “we are totally committed to find MH370”.
Houston also said that Bangladeshi ships, including a vessel fitted with sonar equipment, had so far found nothing in the northern Bay of Bengal, where a resource survey company, Australia-based GeoResonance, had claimed it found possible plane wreckage.
According to Hishammuddin, Malaysia was still considering whether to hire private deep sea vessels to search the Bay of Bengal area as it could distract the main search and cost involved would be high.
The Malaysian Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.