PUTRAJAYA , Malaysia, July 22 (UPI) — The search for a Malaysia Airlines plane lost since March 2014 will be suspended if evidence is not found in the current search area, officials said Friday.
Transport ministers from Australia, China and Malaysia, meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, announced the search for Flight 370 will be suspended if the current search of nearly 50,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean yields no information. The Boeing 777 disappeared while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to China with 239 people on board.
About 20 percent of the designated search area, or about 3,800 square miles, remains unexplored. Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Friday the multi-million dollar cost of the exploration was not a factor in the decision to suspend the mission.
“Despite the best efforts of all involved, the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading,” a joint statement from the three governments said. “In the absence of credible new evidence leading to an identification of a specific location of the aircraft, the search would not end, but be suspended upon completion of the 120,000 square kilometer [46,332 square mile] area.”
Investigating the remaining part of the search area has been hampered recently by bad weather, indicating the current search, expected to finish by December if the plane is not found, could last until the spring of 2017. The search includes the use of several ships with equipment to scan the ocean floor. Several pieces of debris, determined to be from the Boeing 777, have been recovered, all west of the search area and off the coasts of Reunion Island, near Madagascar, Mauritius, South Africa and Mozambique.