Malaysia open to proposals to resume MH370 hunt

On fifth anniversary of plane's disappearance, minister says Malaysia is open to reviving search for the missing flight.

    Hundreds of people, including relatives of those on board MH370, gathered in Kuala Lumpur to mark the fifth anniversary of the jet's mysterious disappearance [Lai Seng Sin/Reuters]
    Hundreds of people, including relatives of those on board MH370, gathered in Kuala Lumpur to mark the fifth anniversary of the jet's mysterious disappearance [Lai Seng Sin/Reuters]

    Malaysia's government says it will consider resuming the search for a missing Malaysia Airlines flight if companies interested in the hunt come forward with viable proposals or credible leads, as families of passengers marked the fifth anniversary of the plane's mysterious disappearance.

    Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, became the world's greatest aviation mystery when it vanished on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

    Malaysia and China, as well as Australia, called off a two-year $141.6m underwater search in the southern Indian Ocean in January 2017 after finding no trace of the aircraft.

    A second three-month search, led by US exploration firm Ocean Infinity, ended similarly in May last year.

    Anthony Loke, Malaysia's transport minister, said on Sunday the government was prepared to reward firms searching for MH370 under a "no cure, no fee" agreement, meaning payment would be made only if they located the aircraft.

    The government had offered Ocean Infinity up to $70m under such an agreement for its 2018 search.

    "If there are any credible leads or specific proposals ... we are more than willing to look at them and we are prepared to discuss with them the new proposals," Loke told reporters at a Kuala Lumpur event marking the fifth year of MH370's disappearance. 

    Ocean Infinity has expressed interest in another search, citing new technology developed in the past year after the firm successfully located an Argentinian submarine in November, a year after the vessel went missing.

    In a video shown at the event, Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity's CEO, said his company is still reviewing all possible data on MH370 and thinking about how it can revive its failed mission.

    "We haven't given up hope," Plunkett said.

     "We hope we can continue the search in due course." 

    Two of the three pieces of debris confirmed to be from the plane were on public display for the first time [Vincent Thian/AP]

    Loke, the transport minister, said the company has yet to put forward a fresh proposal.

    "If they can convince us that the new technology can be more efficient in terms of the search, then we are more than willing to restart," Loke said.

    'Tougher every year'

    In a long-awaited final report into the tragedy released in July last year, the official investigation team pointed to failings by air traffic control and said the course of the plane was changed manually.

    Investigators said the cause of the disappearance could not be determined until the wreckage and the jet's black boxes were found. The report reiterated Malaysia's assertion that the plane was deliberately diverted and flown for over seven hours after severing communications. 

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    But it said there was no evidence of abnormal behaviour or stress in the two pilots that could lead them to hijack the plane. All the other passengers were also cleared by police and had no pilot training.

    More than 30 pieces of debris, believed to be part of the Boeing 777-200ER plane, have washed up along the Indian Ocean coastline, but only three were confirmed to be from it.

    Two of those fragments went on display at Sunday's event, the first time such pieces have been open for public view.

    The parts, currently in the custody of the Malaysian government, include a wing fragment found in Tanzania measuring about 4.27 metres, the largest piece of debris found so far.

    Families of those on board the plane said they hoped displaying the debris would help the public understand their loss and spur efforts to continue searching for the aircraft.

    Relatives and supporters at the event lit candles and sang songs in tribute to their loved ones. Many wore light blue T-shirts that read, "It's not history, it's the future. Fly safely."

    Jacquita Gonzales, whose husband Patrick Gomes was a crew member on the flight, said there was "no closure until the plane is found, until we exactly know what happened to the aircraft and our loved ones on board.

    "It gets tougher every year, because we are all expecting some answers."

    SOURCE: News agencies