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Australia’s Transport Minister Darren Chester today said that experts will continue analyzing data and scrutinizing debris washing ashore from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in a bid to narrow down where it crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. However, Chester declined to specify what kind of breakthrough would convince officials to resume the search for the missing airliner that was suspended this week after almost three years.
“When we get some information or data or a breakthrough that leads us to a specific location, the experts will know it when they see it,” he told reporters in the southern city of Melbourne.
The sonar seabed search ended yesterday, possibly forever not because investigators have run out of leads, but because the countries involved in the expensive and vast deep-sea hunt have shown no appetite for opening another big phase.
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Late last year, as ships with high-tech search equipment covered the last strips of the 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) search zone west of Australia, experts concluded they had been looking in the wrong place and should have been searching a smaller area immediately to the north. But by then, USD 160 million had already been spent by Malaysia, Australia and China, who had previously agreed not to search elsewhere without pinpoint evidence of the plane’s location. More than half of those aboard the plane were Chinese.
Since no technology currently exists that can tell investigators exactly where the plane is, that means the most expensive, complex search in aviation history is over, barring a change of heart from the three countries.
Chester defended the decision to call off the hunt without checking the new area to the north, saying, “No one is coming to me as minister and saying, We know where MH370 is”.
He insisted the enormous cost had nothing to do with pulling the plug.
“It is a costly exercise, but it hasn’t been the factor which led to the decision to suspend the search,” Chester said.
“We don’t want to provide false hope to the families and friends. We need to have credible new evidence leading to a specific location before we would be reasonably considering future search efforts.”
The new 25,000-square kilometer (9,700-square mile) area to the north was determined with the help of drift modeling by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which attempted to calculate where debris that has washed ashore on coastlines in the western Indian Ocean originated. Chester said that drift modeling would continue, and experts will scrutinize any further debris that washes up.