The families of those onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 said Monday they will mount a debris-hunting trip to Madagascar to search for clues to what happened to the missing plane. Investigators have identified six pieces of wreckage to have either definitely or almost certainly come from the jet, which vanished with 239 people while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014.
Voice 370, a family association, said the debris collected so far has all been found off Africa’s east coast. “Despite these hugely important finds, there has been no systematic, organized search by any responsible party. This leaves the (next-of-kin) no other choice except to take it upon ourselves to do something to find answers and closure,” it said in a statement.
An ongoing search in the southern Indian Ocean, where the plane is believed to have crashed, has been fruitless and could be suspended soon. Grace Subathirai Nathan, whose mother Anne Daisy was on the flight, said she will be going to Madagascar with three other Malaysians, two Chinese and a French next-of-kin. She said the group is financing the December 3-11 trip from their own pockets.
“We hope to mobilize the fishing villagers and coastal population to be on the constant lookout for new debris that could become new credible evidence,” she told The Associated Press. The Voice 370 statement said the seven-member team will focus their search along high potential sites based on drift modeling, largely focusing in areas on and around Ile Saint Marie, a tropical island off Madagascar’s east coast.
The group said they may set up an incentive system using their own funds to encourage the search for debris, and will aim to set up a notification system and local collection point for potential aircraft debris. So far, none of the six pieces of debris has helped narrow down the precise location of the main underwater wreckage. Investigators need to find that in order to locate the flight data recorders that could help explain why the plane veered so far off course.
Search crews are expected to finish their sweep of the 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) search zone in the Indian Ocean next month. Oceanographers have been analyzing wing flaps found in Tanzania and on the French island of La Reunion to see if they might be able to identify a potential new search area through drift modeling. But any new search would require more funding. Malaysia, Australia and China said in July that the $160 million hunt will be suspended once the current stretch of ocean is exhausted unless new evidence emerges that would pinpoint a specific location of the aircraft.