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Malaysia Airlines flight 370

Families call for renewed search for MH370 as second effort to locate missing Malaysia Airlines jet in Indian Ocean ends

The Boeing 777 vanished on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 12:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 10:51pm

As the second large-scale hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 came to a close on Tuesday, families who lost loved ones called for a full report on search efforts and a third attempt at scouring the remote Indian Ocean seabed where the plane was believed to have been lost.

Steve Zhang from Beijing, whose mother was on the ill-fated Boeing 777 four years ago, said family members who refused to sign compensation agreements hoped to use whatever influence they could muster, including lawsuits, to pressure the Malaysian government and airline to “reveal more valuable information”.

“We look forward to a full and detailed investigation report on the missing MH370 as the previous ones were not of much value to us,” Zhang said.

He pleaded for the search to continue “until there is an outcome”.

Jiang Hui, also from Beijing and who also lost his mother, described the second search as “gratifying”, adding that advances in technology should support efforts to continue finding the plane.

MH370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8, 2014 but went missing with 239 people on board, including 154 Chinese citizens.

Last week, Malaysia’s new transport minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook said a report on the second search, which lasted over three months, would be published in full.

“I can assure that the report will be published openly and transparently without anything being adjusted or hidden, including the elements of controversy,” Loke said, according to Malaysian state news agency Bernama.

Several days later, newly released political heavyweight Anwar Ibrahim, tipped to be Malaysia’s leader after current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, told Australian media he would not rule out further searches, “depending on what domestic investigations bring up”.

Malaysia signed a “no cure, no fee” deal with Texas-based company Ocean Infinity in January to resume the hunt for the plane, about a year after a A$200 million (HK$1.1 billion) official search led by Australia was called off.

The original search focused on the South China Sea before analysis revealed the plane had made an unexpected turn west and then south.

Experts used drift analysis of wreckage found washed ashore on the west coasts of the Indian Ocean to define the new search area that Ocean Infinity used, saying the most likely crash site was an area of 25,000 sq km (9,650 square miles).

Ocean Infinity stood to be paid US$70 million if it had found the wreckage or black boxes.

On Tuesday, the company’s CEO Oliver Plunkett said the outcome was “extremely disappointing”. It said it had covered 112,000 square kilometres of ocean floor, similar to the original search that lasted for 2 1/2 years and “far in excess” of the target.

It said it hoped to offer its services in a future search.

Asked if China would consider further funding for the search, or if search organisations had asked for more resources, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China would “continue to maintain communication with relevant parties”.

Hong Kong engineer Gary Wong Wing-lun, who was involved in the first underwater search, said funding was an issue as authorities would be wary of spending more money.

Australia, Malaysia and China agreed in 2016 that an official search would only resume if the three countries had credible evidence that identified a specific location for the wreckage.

“I hope one day, rich people like Bill Gates or [Hong Kong billionaire] Li Ka-shing can donate some money to fund the search,” Wong said.

Hui suggested a foundation to support a future search be set up with donations from the three governments, the airline, Boeing and the insurance companies involved in the case.

Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, based in Perth, Western Australia, who has followed the MH370 case, said the missing plane was “too big a disaster to ignore”.

“I believe international pressure will force their hand. You just can’t walk away from something like this,” said Thomas.

The debris found as far afield as Madagascar, he said, suggested search teams were looking in the right area and shifting either side of the current corridors of seabed inspection could yield findings.

Australia said it held out hope Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 would one day be found.

Australian Transport Minister Michael McCormack described efforts over the past four years as the largest in aviation history, which tested the limits of technology and the capacity of experts and people at sea.