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MH370 SEARCH: Malaysian PM not ready to declare plane lost

Publication Date : 26-04-2014


More than six weeks after a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) aircraft vanished en route to Beijing, Prime Minister Najib Razak said he was not yet ready to declare MH370 lost, even though searches have yet to turn up any clue.

In an interview with CNN yesterday, Datuk Seri Najib also said Malaysia would release a preliminary report next week on the plane's mysterious disappearance early on March 8.

"I have directed an internal investigation team of experts to look at the report, and there is a likelihood that next week we could release the report."

On why the government was not as yet prepared to declare the Boeing 777-200 with 239 people on board as lost, Najib said:"At some point in time, I would be, but right now, I think I need to take into account the feelings of the next of kin - and some of them have said publicly that they aren't willing to accept it until they find hard evidence."

Emotions have been running high in Beijing, where about 500 relatives of Chinese passengers have gathered for almost 50 days.

On Thursday, angry relatives refused to let 10 MAS staff leave a hotel ballroom until they met Malaysian officials who they had been told would show up. A band of relatives later marched to the Malaysian Embassy, where they stayed overnight, ringed by Chinese security officers who kept the media away. They returned to the hotel yesterday afternoon.

One of them wrote on Weibo: "We have persevered all night and are exhausted, but the Malaysian government is ignoring us and not even providing us with food."

An MAS statement yesterday confirmed the ballroom incident. It also said an airline security employee was slightly hurt by "an aggressive family member".

As the search for the missing MAS aircraft continues in the southern Indian Ocean, an MAS insurer has reportedly paid out almost 360 million ringgit (US$110 million) being held in an account, while also making hardship payments to the families.

Yesterday, the US underwater search vehicle Bluefin-21 completed its 13th mission but found nothing. According to Australian authorities coordinating the search, it has searched 95 per cent of the target zone where a signal consistent with an aircraft black box was detected. Four signals had been detected but none since April 8.

Malaysia and Australia have said they will relook operations if nothing is found after the search is complete. The next step could include widening the search area.

The site in the Indian Ocean was determined by the plane's last contact with a satellite. It is still not known how MH370 could have ended up in the rough isolated oceans near Antarctica.

Najib told CNN that it was "a bizarre scenario which none of us could have contemplated".

When informed by international experts about this scenario, he said, he asked repeatedly if they were sure. "And their answer to me was, 'We are as sure as we can possibly be'," he said.

But some families have rejected the conclusion, as no wreckage has yet been found.

On Malaysia's handling of the MH370 saga, which has been criticised by Chinese family members, he said: "Some of the things, we did well. We were very focused on searching for the plane."

But he added: "We didn't get our communications right, absolutely right, to begin with. But I think towards the later part, we got our act together."

Asked why Malaysia's air force did not send a plane to investigate a blip on the military radar which picked up MH370 flying back across the peninsula before it disappeared, he said it was because the blip was not deemed hostile.

"It behaved like a commercial airline, following a normal flight path," he said.


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