The four-year search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is about to end after the Malaysian government confirmed there would be no further extensions to the private firm undertaking the latest hunt for the missing plane.
US-based Ocean Infinity has been searching for the aircraft that disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board including six Australians, in one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
The private firm’s contract will end next Tuesday and Malaysian transport minister Anthony Loke confirmed there will be no more extensions to the search.
“This morning I raised this in cabinet and agreed to extend to May 29,” Mr Loke told reporters Wednesday.
Asked if that meant no more extensions, he said: “Yes.”
Mr Loke said the 90-day search deal with Ocean Infinity was due to end in April, but was extended twice until May 29 at the firm’s request.
“There will be no more extensions. It cannot continue forever. Let’s wait until May 29 and we will then decide how to proceed,” he told The Associated Press.
The Ocean Infinity search comes after Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless $200 million search across a 120,000 square-kilometre area in the Indian Ocean last year, despite investigators calling for the target area to be extended 25,000 square kilometres north.
The official search was extremely difficult because no transmissions were received from the aircraft after its first 38 minutes of flight.
Systems designed to automatically transmit the flight’s position failed to work, according to a final report issued in January 2017 by the Australian Transport Safety Board.
Voice 370, which represents families of those aboard the flight, urged the Malaysian government to review all matters related to the jet’s disappearance including “any possible falsification” or elimination of maintenance records and any omission that may have impaired tracking, search, rescue and recovery of the plane.
“We urge the new government to include as part of its agenda in the next 100 days … a further investigation and inquiry into any act or omission across the entire spectrum of operations that may have impaired tracking, search, rescue and recovery,” the group said in a statement.
Mr Loke said he will ensure all details are made public.
“I’m not privy to whatever details that may not have been revealed, but as minister, I am committed to releasing all details to the public,” he said.
Earlier, newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the Government would review the search and terminate it if it was deemed not to be useful.
“We want to know the details of this (search), the necessity of this, and if we find it is not necessary, we will not renew,” Dr Mahathir said after chairing his first cabinet meeting since taking office.
The announcement came as Dr Mahathir’s administration moved to cut government spending after reviewing the country’s debt levels.
Dr Mahathir said the national debt of South–East Asia’s third-largest economy was 65 per cent of GDP.