'Search area for missing flight MH370 to be doubled'

KUALA LUMPUR - The search for MH370 will continue even after the "primary search area" of 60,000 square kilometres in the treacherous southern Indian Ocean is completed should no trace of the plane which went missing 13 months ago be found.

According to an email sighted by The Straits Times, that was sent to relatives of the 239 onboard the plane that disappeared mysteriously enroute to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, leaders of the three nations leading the search - Malaysia, Australia and China - agreed to double the search area to complete a larger 120,000 square kilometre zone off the west coast of Australia.

However, if the plane is found "and is accessible", authorities will initiate recovery activities that "includes securing all the evidence necessary for investigation".

Ministers from Australia and China - whose citizens accounted for two-thirds of passengers on the Malaysia Airlines flight - met with Malaysian counterparts in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to deliberate on the hunt for the jet, which is feared to have ended its journey at the bottom of the ocean.

About 60 per cent of a search zone has already been scoured without any trace of the missing jet. 

They are scheduled to meet the press at 3pm before reporters are briefed on technical details of the ongoing search that has cost a reported RM500 million (S$240 million) over the past year.

shannont@sph.com.sg