Government ministers from Australia, China and Malaysia said Thursday they will double the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 if wreckage is not found in the existing target area.
No trace has been found of the Boeing 777 aircraft, which disappeared in March last year carrying 239 passengers and crew in what is one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.
Most of the passengers were Chinese.
The extended search for the jetliner, which is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean off Australia’s west coast, could take up to a year, Reuters reported, citing officials at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang pledged to double the search area if necessary.
“Should the aircraft not be found within the current search area, ministers agreed to extend the search by an additional 60,000 square kilometers to bring the search area to 120,000 square kilometers and thereby cover the entire highest-probability area identified by expert analysis,” they said in a joint statement.
The second phase of the search would cost an estimated A$50 million (US$38.74 million), which would be borne by Malaysia and Australia, Liow said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
MH370 vanished from radar screens shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing.
Investigators believe it was flown thousands of kilometers off course before eventually crashing.
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