Australian, Chinese, and Malaysian ministers have agreed to extend the search for the missing MH370 aircraft if it is not found in the priority zone next month.
The third tripartite ministerial meeting in Kuala Lumpur on 16 April issued a communiqué acknowledging the importance of continuing the search if the aircraft is not found in the current 60,000 km2 search area, which is 60% completed.
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“Ministers agreed to extend the search by an additional 60,000 km2 to bring the search area to 120,000 km2,” said the communiqué, which was sent to the families of those on board the Malaysia Airlines aircraft before being released to the media.
This would cover the entire highest-probability area identified by expert analysis based on satellite data tracking of the flight’s last hours before it is believed to have run out of fuel and spiralled into the southern Indian Ocean on 8 March last year.
The renewed search, which may take up to a year to complete, extends north along the ‘7th arc’ off Exmouth, West Australia, and southwest of Pilbara.
Malaysian minister of transport Liow Tiong Lai chaired the meeting with the Australian deputy prime minister, Warren Truss, and Chinese minister of transport Yang Chuantang. The meeting also agreed on plans for recovery should the aircraft be found.
Ministers thanked those nations that had helped in the search over the past year, and acknowledged the grief and loss of families and friends of those on board the aircraft.