SYDNEY • The deep-sea search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was suspended yesterday without any trace found of the plane that vanished in 2014 with 239 people on board, said the three countries involved in the search.
The location of Flight MH370 has become one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries since the plane, a Boeing 777, disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
"Despite every effort using the best science available... the search has not been able to locate the aircraft," the Malaysian, Australian and Chinese authorities said in a statement.
"The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness."
The last search vessel left the area yesterday, according to the three countries, after scouring 120,000 sq km in one of the remotest areas of the Indian Ocean for the past three years.
Malaysia, Australia and China agreed last July to suspend the US$145 million (S$207 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.
Last month, Australia dismissed an investigator's recommendation to shift the search farther north, saying that no new evidence had emerged to support that.
Since the plane went missing on March 8, 2014, there have been competing theories over whether one or both pilots - or none - were in control of the plane, whether it was hijacked or whether all those on board had perished and the aircraft was not being controlled at all when it hit the water.
Adding to the mystery, investigators believe someone may have deliberately switched off the plane's transponder before diverting it thousands of kilometres out over the Indian Ocean.
A next-of-kin support group called Voice 370 said in a statement that investigators could not leave the matter unsolved.
"In our view, extending the search to the new area defined by the experts is an inescapable duty owed to the flying public in the interest of aviation safety," Voice 370 said.
Most of the passengers were from China.
Asked about the end of the search, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said China placed great importance on the hunt for the airliner and had actively participated in the search effort alongside Australia and Malaysia. The spokesman did not elaborate.
In China, Mr Jiang Hui, whose mother was on board the flight, said he felt "disappointed, helpless and angry" because the search had been ended "purely due to a funding shortage".
"The 370 incident is the most important thing in my life," he said, referring to the flight number.
Ms Grace Nathan, whose mother Anne Daisy was on the plane, said the governments should consider the recommendation to search an additional 25,000 sq km area.
"If money is a concern, prioritise within this area," Ms Nathan said.
Parent A. Amirtham, 62, whose only son S. Puspanathan was on board the doomed plane, spoke of the pain she and her husband G. Subramaniam have endured over the years.
"Deep down in my heart, I believe he is alive," she said in Kuala Lumpur. "How can they stop the search when they have not found the plane? I am sad and confused because I just do not know if my son is dead or alive."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE