KL to offer reward in hunt for MH370

Relatives of MH370 passengers waiting to meet airline officials in Beijing on Wednesday, a day after the official search for the missing plane was suspended.
Relatives of MH370 passengers waiting to meet airline officials in Beijing on Wednesday, a day after the official search for the missing plane was suspended.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Quest for missing fuselage left to private companies after official search suspended

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia said yesterday that it would pay a reward to any private company that found the fuselage of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, days after a fruitless three-year hunt was suspended.

Australia, Malaysia and China ended the search for the aircraft on Tuesday, leaving one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries unanswered.

The Boeing 777 jet with 239 people on board disappeared in March 2014 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said that the government was open to credible private companies searching for the plane and would reward any that found its fuselage.

"All costs must be borne by them. We will only reward them if they are successful," Datuk Abdul Aziz told Reuters.

He said the size of the reward had not been decided. Any company intending to carry out a search should contact the government, and a decision would then be made on the reward, he said.

The search of a 120,000 sq km area of the Indian Ocean cost about A$200 million (S$215.3 million) but the three countries involved were reluctant to keep looking without new evidence as to the plane's final resting place.

Contact was lost with flight MH370 over the Gulf of Thailand in the early hours of March 8, 2014. Subsequent analysis of radar and satellite contacts suggested someone on board may have deliberately switched off the plane's transponder before diverting it thousands of kilometres out over the Indian Ocean.

Since the crash, there have been competing theories over whether the plane was hijacked and whether it was under the control of anyone when it finally ran out of fuel.

The end of the underwater search drew swift and angry reactions from relatives of those on board. They have repeatedly called for the hunt to be expanded.

"We know the next of kin are not happy when we suspended the search," said Mr Abdul Aziz.

"We can't proceed until there is new evidence, but if there are credible companies that want to take on the search, then why not?"

The only confirmed traces of the plane have been three pieces of debris found washed up on the island country of Mauritius, the French island of Reunion and an island off Tanzania.

As many as 30 other pieces of wreckage found there and on beaches in Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa are suspected of having come from the plane.

On Wednesday, Australia said that it was not ruling out a future underwater search.

Most of the passengers were from China.

Mr Abdul Aziz said the search costs had been borne by the three countries. while the aircraft-maker, Boeing, had not committed anything.

Boeing said in a statement that it provided technical expertise and assistance, principally as advisers to government investigative authorities.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'KL to offer reward in hunt for MH370'. Print Edition | Subscribe