Malaysia, Australia and China have agreed to extend the search area for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 by an additional 60,000 square kilometres, should the aircraft not be found within the current search zone.
The announcement was made at a joint press conference in Kuala Lumpur held by Australia’s deputy prime minister Warren Truss, Malaysian minister of transport Liow Tiong Lai and Chinese minister of transport Yang Chuangtang.
Should it be required, the extended search will bring the total search area for MH370 to 120,000 square kilometres, thereby covering the “entire highest probability area identified by expert analysis”, says Truss. It will also cover 95% of MH370’s projected flight path.
“We’re following the seventh arc, the seventh handshake and that is the flight path. We will extend north, south, east and west, expanding the area within the high priority area,” says Liow.
The ministers add that more than 60% of the priority search area has been combed through, and assuming no significant delays with vessels, equipment or from the weather, the first phase of the search should be largely completed by May.
Truss says the extended search may take up to another year to complete, given the adverse weather conditions in the coming months.
“Upon completion of the additional 60,000 square kilometres, all high probability search areas would have been covered,” he adds.
Liow adds that the extended search is estimated to cost some A$50 million ($38.7 million), due to lower mobilisation costs considering vessels have already been deployed in the first search phase.Malaysia and Australia have pledged A$120 million for the first phase of search.
MH370 disappeared without a trace on 8 March 2014 while on the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route. There were 227 passengers and 12 crew onboard.