Kuala Lumpur, Mar 7: Malaysia has said it is committed to find the MH370 flight, which disappeared last year and the countries leading the search will return to the drawing board if they fail to trace the aircraft by May end.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said this yesterday ahead of the first anniversary of the disappearance of the aircraft tomorrow. The aircraft disappeared on March 8 last year while it was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people onboard, mostly Chinese.
"By the end of May, if we still can't find the plane, then we will have to go back to the drawing board," he said. "We rely on the expert group ... to come up with the plan. I am cautiously optimistic it should be in this area."
The minister stressed the search operation would continue and contrary to reports not be scaled back. As of yesterday, four ships are searching for MH370 in the Indian Ocean, having covered 26,000sq km of the sea floor or about 44 per cent of the 60,000sq km primary search area.
"We are still confident that we can find the plane within this priority area. We are confident because the experts are confident that the plane is in the Southern Indian Ocean," Liow said. On the next move, if the aircraft is not found, the minister said Malaysia would consult experts before deciding on the way forward.
"However, I am still cautiously optimistic based on the scientific and statistical data, especially the seven electronic 'handshakes' between MH370 and the Inmarsat satellite which are specific and crucial for us. That is why we hope that we will find the plane," Liow said.
"The next-of-kin have gone through a painful year so I want to tell them that we are with them and that we will work as hard as possible to find answers for them. We understand their feelings. They come to us for answers and I want to tell them that I also want answers," he said.
Over the past one year, Malaysia had taken various measures to help the next-of-kin, including setting up a support and communications centre in Beijing and six other provinces in China, Liow said. Liow said, he had directed Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to better engage the next-of-kin, citing as example the declaration that MH370 was an accident should have been made known to them before the January 29 public announcement.
The minister said, he was later told that since MAS could not contact several of the next of-kin, it had sent them text messages, which he felt was not the proper way to address them. Liow said, MAS was testing a new system that tracked the movement of aircraft every 15 minutes, adding that Malaysia was currently working with Australia on this.