Friday, December 9 2016

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Malaysia, Australia still 'hopeful' on MH370 anniversary

Update: March, 08/2016 - 14:21

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia and Australia said they remained "hopeful" of solving the mystery of flight MH370 as the second anniversary of the plane's disappearance arrived Tuesday with no end in sight for devastated families.

The anniversary will be marked in Malaysia with the release of a progress report by investigators probing the baffling case, as well as a solemn moment of silence by the country's parliament.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said authorities "remain committed to doing everything within our means to solving what is an agonising mystery."

"The current search operation is expected to be completed later this year, and we remain hopeful that MH370 will be found," he said in a statement.

If the Indian Ocean search fails, Malaysia, Australia and China will meet "to determine the way forward," he said.

The Malaysia Airlines jet vanished on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew. Authorities believe it veered out over the remote southern Indian Ocean, where it went down.

The three searching nations have already indicated the hunt will end if nothing is detected on the seafloor in a designated area deemed the most likely crash zone.

The Australian-led search -- the biggest and most expensive in history --hopes to eventually retrieve the Boeing 777's black boxes.

But no crash site has been pinpointed yet and high-tech scanning of the search area is expected to be completed in a few months.

Next-of-kin, struggling for closure in the tragedy, have pleaded for the quest to continue beyond that.

Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester also said Tuesday that the three countries remain "hopeful".

"Finding the aircraft would give answers to the world, in particular the families of missing loved ones, about what happened," he said.

Investigators to issue statement

A team of international investigators set up in the wake of the disappearance will issue a statement at 3:00 pm (0700 GMT) -- part of a requirement under international rules to release an update each year.

Its initial report, issued on the first anniversary, shed no light on the mystery and there has been no indication that Tuesday's statement will contain any revelations.

Theories to explain the disappearance include a possible mechanical or structural failure, a hijacking or terror plot, or rogue pilot action.

A wing fragment later confirmed to be from MH370 was found on an island thousands of kilometres from the search area last July, the first proof the plane went down.

Two new pieces of debris have been found recently but they are yet to be confirmed as from MH370, and such flotsam is no help in pinpointing a crash site.

The second anniversary also is the deadline for filing lawsuits against the airline.

Scores and perhaps hundreds of next-of-kin have filed in recent days in the United States, Malaysia, China, Australia and elsewhere, while others have accepted undisclosed settlements, say attorneys.

Many families accuse the airline and Malaysian government of letting the plane slip away through a bungled response, withholding information on what happened, and treating grieving relatives insensitively, charges that are denied.

Many relatives also remain unconvinced by the vague satellite data indicating the plane's movements and which authorities have used to determine the suspected crash zone. — AFP

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