Malaysian government accused of giving ‘mixed messages’ on any future hunts for missing plane.
Australia has said it remains hopeful Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will one day be found as the last search of seabed in the remote Indian Ocean was scheduled to end.
Malaysia said last week the search by Texas-based company Ocean Infinity would end on Tuesday after two extensions of the original 90-day time limit.
Australian Transport Minister Michael McCormack said the four-year search had been the largest in aviation history and tested the limits of technology and the capacity of experts and people at sea.
Pieces of debris have been found as far away as Madagascar, but not the main body of the plane.
‘Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the 239 people on board MH370,’ Mr McCormack’s office said in a statement. ‘We will always remain hopeful that one day the aircraft will be located.’
Malaysia signed a ‘no cure, no fee’ deal with Ocean Infinity in January to resume the hunt for the plane, a year after the official search in the southern Indian Ocean by Australia, Malaysia and China was called off.
No other search is scheduled.
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.
Malaysia’s newly elected prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, had earlier announced he would review the necessity of the search and terminate it if it was ‘not useful’.
On Saturday, prime minister-in waiting Anwar Ibrahim told the Australian newspaper he was ‘not ruling out further searches’ if a re-examination of Malaysia’s own information brought up new findings.
Malaysia said last week an Ocean Infinity ship Seabed Contractor operating underwater sonar drones had searched more than 37,000 square miles of sea.
The search area deemed by experts to be the most likely crash site was 9,650 square miles, an area roughly 25 per cent larger than Wales.
The Boeing 777 vanished on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.
The hunt for the missing plane formed one of the largest surface and underwater searches in aviation history, covering more than 120,000 sq km (46,300 miles) of the Indian Ocean.
The original search focused on the South China Sea before analysis revealed the plane had made an unexpected turn west and then south.
Australia coordinated an official search on Malaysia’s behalf that cost 200 million Australian dollars (£113m) before it ended in 2017.
Danica Weeks, an Australian resident who lost her husband on Flight 370, urged Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to call on the new Malaysian government to be more transparent about what they knew about the mysterious disappearance.
‘There’ve been so many theories and rumours and ... we don’t know what is true and what isn’t,’ Ms Weeks told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
‘I want Julie Bishop to say to the Malaysian counterparts now: what do you have? Where is the investigation at?’ she added.
The director of the official seabed hunt that ended last year, Peter Foley, told an Australian Senate committee hearing last week that he still hoped that Ocean Infinity would be successful.
‘If they’re not, of course, that would be a great sadness for all of us,’ Foley said.