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MH370: transport ministers defend suspending search for missing plane

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As the search vessel Fugro Equator returned to port for the last time, officials from Australia, Malaysia and China denied that the effort had been a failure

Transport ministers for Australia, Malaysia and China have defended their decision to suspend the search for the the missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 in the Indian Ocean.

The AU$160m (97.5m) deep-sea sonar search off Australias west coast was called off last week after no trace of the plane was found in an 120,000sq km (46,000sq mile) area.

The Fugro Equator search vessel returned to port in Perth for the last time on Monday, where it was was met by the three transport ministers.

But the Australian transport minister, Darren Chester, denied that the effort had been a failure, saying crews had managed to eliminate the search zone as a possible crash site.

He and the Chinese transport minister, Li Xiaopeng, thanked officials for their efforts.

Darren Chester MP (@DarrenChesterMP)

Perth today: welcomed a chance to thank search crew on Fugro Equator for effort in trying to locate #MH370 #auspol pic.twitter.com/M8uucLAC6R

January 23, 2017

Several relatives of the 239 people on board the plane have fiercely criticised the tripartite decision to end the search, and have called on officials to scour a new, more northerly 25,000sq km (9,700 sq mile) area that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has identified as the likeliest resting place of the wreckage.

On Monday, the ATSBs chief commissioner expressed confidence that the plane probably lies in that new zone.

Its highly likely that the area now defined by the experts contains the aircraft but thats not absolutely for certain, Greg Hood told reporters. He later told AAP that the ATSB would have liked to continue searching to solve the mystery and bring closure to the families of those on board.

The Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said the investigation into the planes disappearance would continue, but Malaysia had no plans to fund a new search based on the investigators recent recommendation: We need more credible evidence before we move to the next search area.

Malaysia would take the lead in analysing future debris that washes ashore in the hopes it can provide clues to the location of the underwater wreckage, with Australian officials assisting when needed, he said.

Darren Chester MP (@DarrenChesterMP)

Master of ‘Fugro Equator’ told of occasions when 20m waves broke over bridge during search #MH370 #auspol pic.twitter.com/S0r8bQLEtz

January 23, 2017

Liow also contradicted an earlier statement from his deputy that the Malaysian government was offering a reward to any private company that found the planes fuselage.

Liow said the comment last week by deputy transport minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi reflected his deputys personal opinion and was not an official proposal by the government.

He thanked the Fugro crew for their professionalism and their commitment.

We will say that, although we didnt locate the plane we have overcome these 120,000sq km search. I would also like to say it is with sadness that we have to announce the suspension.

Liow said he would meet later on Monday with a representative of passengers families to hear their concerns about the search being called off.

The Voice370 group said on Sunday that a spokeswoman, Danica Weeks, would deliver personal letters to Liow, asking him to resume the search for the plane. Weeks, who lives in Perth, lost her husband on board MH370.

I will be receiving their letter today, Ill be meeting her and we hope that we can have a good discussion, Liow told reporters on Monday.

Voice 370 has launched a Change.org petition to lobby the three governments to renew the search. At time of writing it has just over 3,600 signatures.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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