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MH370: Search to enter new phase

Publication Date : 06-05-2014

 

The search for the missing MH370 plane will enter a new phase with intensified probe over a larger area of the southern Indian Ocean following a tripartite meeting in Canberra between Malaysia, China and Australia.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said there would be meetings starting tomorrow to analyse data and information collected from the search so far and estimated that the new phase could cost up to A$60 million (US$55 million).

“One of the key elements of the next stage will be to undertake more detailed oceangraphic mapping of the search area. Much of this area hasn’t been mapped.

“We know the waters are very deep. We need to have an understanding of the ocean floor to undertake the search safely.

“The capabilities for the next search is a mix of towed side scan or synthetic aperture sonar and capable autonomous underwater vehicles.

“Work is under way to tender for these equipment and get them in the water as soon as possible,” Truss said, adding that the process could take two months.

At a joint press conference with acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang in Canberra yesterday, Truss also announced the intention to relocate the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) from Perth to Canberra – to be closer to the Malaysian and Chinese representatives – although the base of operations would remain.

To date, there have been 334 search flights while about 4.5 million sq km of ocean have been scoured in the search for the plane carrying 239 passengers.

All the countries in the search had until now borne their own costs, added Truss.

Hishammuddin said during the discussion, all three countries had expressed a sense of urgency to continue with the new phase of the search, citing this as an opportunity for other nations and research institutes to join in.

On the country’s handling of the search and response, as stated in the initial report of the MH370 investigation, Hishammuddin, quoting Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, said “there were things that Malaysia did right and others that Malaysia could do better”.

“It’s not easy to benchmark whether Malaysia has done right or wrong in its response to MH370. The Panel of Inquiry will go through this and it will decide if the four-hour delay – if you (reporters) were allu­ding to that – was reasonable.

“We have been consistent in our approach,” he added.

Yang said there would be no stopping or slacking in the search with authorities pledging full cooperation in the new phase.

For the transitional period of the new phase, Yang said the Chinese government would deploy three search vessels and select a company with sophisticated technological assets to organise a follow-up search.

 

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