Australia’s Transport Minister, Darren Chester on Wednesday said his government has not ruled out future underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 so long as “credible new evidence” arises.
Chester made the remark following joint statement made by China, Australia and Malaysia that the “largest search in aviation history” had been suspended following the completion of the official 120,000 square-kilometres search.
The minister declared that his country had not ruled out recommencing the hunt if new evidence could point to the location of the missing Boeing 777 aircraft.
“I don’t rule out future underwater search by any means, but it’s a question of if we have credible new information.
“It would be a matter for the Malaysian government certainly, but given the close relationship we have, I suspect some further conversation would occur between Australia, Malaysia and China at that time.
“I don’t rule it out, but what I’m saying today is the search in the 120,000 square-kilometres search area has been completed,’’ Chester said in a press conference.
He however added that any credible new information should be information or data that would lead to specific location of the aircraft.
“The experts will know it when they see it,’’ he told the press on Wednesday.
The minister added that information published in December which pointed to a new search zone was only in the order of another potential search area.
Chester described it as “the next best” patch of ocean.
“No one is coming to me as minister and saying ‘we know where MH370 is.
“The new information is saying that if we were to going to extend the search, this is where we would target next’,’’he said.
“The (original) zone was defined on the limited data available but has been reference checked with the drift analysis with debris which has been found.”
The minister, who was forced to defend the decision to suspend the search, denied claim that the 150 million dollars cost of the investigation was the main reason.
“The cost hasn’t been the deciding factor in the tripartite decision to suspend the search.
“There’s no question it’s been a very costly exercise.
“But the cost was not the deciding factor in the decision to suspend the search,’’ Chester told the press.
Meanwhile Greg Hood Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) Chief Commissioner, told newsmen it was disappointing that the government could not come out with any information for the families and loved ones of the 239 missing passengers and crew.
He however promised that in spite of the completion of the underwater search, ATSB would continue to undertake land-based “residual” research into the location of the missing jetliner.
“Although the underwater search is suspended, some residual search-related activity is continuing, including debris, drift analysis and further detailed analysis of satellite imagery.
“This activity is anticipated to end by the end of February 2017,” Hood told the press.
MH370 was a scheduled passenger flight from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.
It disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew on board. (Xinhua/NAN)