Kuala Lumpur/Sydney – Leaders have a duty to continue the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, relatives of passengers from the plane said Tuesday, reacting to a decision by countries leading the search to call it off.
Voice370, a group for loved ones of MH370 passengers, said in a statement that the search must go on.
Extending the search is an “inescapable duty owed to the flying public in the interest of aviation safety. Commercial planes cannot just be allowed to disappear without a trace,” the group said, asking Malaysia, China and Australia to reconsider the decision.
A separate statement from families in China voiced stronger criticism, decrying unwillingness to devote more financial resources to the hunt.
“It is not about lack of technology. Every country didn’t give the best effort … The governments should invest [4.4 million more US dollars] to continue the search,” the statement said.
“The investigation has been insufficient and non-transparent and that is a waste of taxpayer money. We are very disappointed and angry about the result.”
The governments of Malaysia, Australia and China had agreed to split the costs of the search, although officials in each country have accused each other of not paying a fair portion of costs.
The operation has been the most expensive aviation investigation in history.
The loved ones’ statements came immediately after countries leading the search for the plane, which went missing on March 8, 2014, announced the suspension of the search, which has cost more than 200 million Australian dollars (150 million US dollars) during the course of almost three years without turning up a trace of the plane.
“Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has not been located in the 120,000 square kilometre underwater search area in the southern Indian Ocean,” said Tuesday’s joint communique from the three countries involved in the search.
The search was “not able to locate the aircraft,” the statement said, despite efforts using satellite data, accident investigation, flight operations, sonar data, and oceanography.
“Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended.
“The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly, nor without sadness,” Tuesday’s joint statement read.
“Today’s announcement is significant for our three countries, but, more importantly for the family and friends of those on board the aircraft … We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that, at some point in the future, the aircraft will be located.”
In July, the three countries had agreed to suspend the search if no “credible new evidence” about the plane’s location was discovered.
Last month, a review based on analysis by a team of international experts and investigators said the underwater search zone probably did not contain the missing aircraft and, instead, identified “an additional area of 25,000 square kilometres” that could contain the wreckage.
The conclusion had raised the prospect of the search being continued. But the announcement on Tuesday has now quashed that possibility.
Voice370 said the experts’ view of the additional new search area “is an inescapable duty owed to the flying public in the interest of aviation safety.”
“Having already searched 120,000 square kilometres, stopping at this stage is nothing short of irresponsible, and betrays a shocking lack of faith in the data, tools and recommendations of an array of official experts assembled by the authorities themselves,” they said.
Grace Subathirai, a daughter of one of the MH370 passengers, said the statement to suspend the search “is totally unacceptable.”
“What was the purpose of the independent review? The recommendation [of the December review] is an additional 25,000 kilometres. If money is a concern, prioritize within this area,” she told dpa.
“Our repeated appeal … has been ignored. Our request to meet with [the ministers] was ignored,” she said.
Danica Weeks, an Australian whose husband went missing on MH370 on his way to a Mongolian mine site for work, said she was “distraught the search has been called off.”
“I’m still processing it, it’s unacceptable, it’s just disgusting, really,” she said.
“It is their (Malaysia) plane, their responsibility, they’re the ones that promised they would bring them home and now they are just giving up … We want answers, we want to know where our loved ones are, how they ended up there.”
MH370 went missing during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, including the crew. The plane is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean.
So far, more than 20 pieces of debris have been found along African coasts. The finds were made by individuals not related to the official search. Only three pieces have been confirmed as debris from the missing aircraft.