SYDNEY (REUTERS) - There is a possibility missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is north of the area where investigators last week called an end to a three-year search, the head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said on Monday (Jan 23), according to media reports.
The jet disappeared in March 2014 en route to Beijing from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, with 239 people on board, sparking one of the world's great aviation mysteries.
A joint search mission by Australia, Malaysia and China was suspended indefinitely six days ago with little hard evidence of the aircraft's whereabouts.
ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood told reporters in Perth that experts have a fair idea where the Boeing 777's wreckage might be located, despite ending the search.
"It's highly likely that the area now defined by the experts contains the aircraft, but that's not absolutely for certain,"Mr Hood said, according to Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Asked by reporters why the authorities would not expand the search if experts thought they knew where the plane was located, Mr Hood said: "That's a question for governments."
Last month the ATSB reported the Boeing 777 could be within an area of 25,000 sq km to the north of the 120,000-sq-km official underwater search zone in the southern Indian Ocean.
Malaysia, Australia and China agreed in July to suspend the US$145-million (S$205.87 million) search if the plane was not found, or if new evidence that might offer a clue as to its whereabouts was not uncovered, once that area had been checked.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters "more credible evidence" was needed before moving to the next search area, Australian Associated Press said.
Mr Liow on Monday (Jan 23) met a group representing families of the missing passengers in Perth, the West Australian state capital.
Ms Sheryl Keen, from Aircrash Support Group Australia, which represents Australian victims, handed about 100 letters to Mr Liow at what she said was a "positive meeting", adding that he showed interest in continuing investigations.
About 25 pieces of debris have been collected from Africa's east coast and more was expected to wash ashore, Mr Liow said.
Three pieces have been confirmed as definitely being from MH370, five are considered "most certainly" to be from the plane and the rest are still being evaluated, he added.