SYDNEY • Australia will step up search efforts in an area it believes holds the best hopes of finding a missing Malaysia Airlines jet, whose disappearance last year sparked one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history, officials said.
Australia yesterday said fresh analysis of data on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 confirmed that the authorities are searching in the right place, with hopes remaining that it will be found.
The Australian-led underwater search has so far found no trace of the jet that went missing with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 last year.
The number of vessels searching for the jet would be doubled to four, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said. One of the vessels would be provided by China.
Based on satellite analysis of the jet's likely trajectory after it diverted from its flight path, ships have been scouring the seabed off Australia's west coast, so far covering 75,000 sq km of a 120,000 sq km target band of sea floor in the remote southern Indian Ocean.
Mr Truss, flanked by officials from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and Department of Defence, identified an area at the southern tip of that search band that is now believed to be the likeliest resting place of the wreckage.
A diagram in a report released by the ATSB yesterday shows a boxed- in search area with a red zone near the southern tip.
The area had been chosen based on an analysis of the flight data, path and data gleaned from global satellite networks. "We have a high level of confidence that we are searching in the right area," Assistant Minister for Defence Darren Chester told a media conference in Canberra.
Mr Truss said the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group had been tasked with crunching all available data once again to make sure nothing was missed.
The conclusions were released in the new report, MH370 - Definition Of Underwater Search Areas. Based on the final satellite link, MH370's engines probably flamed out, the ATSB said in the report.
"The new research further emphasises that we are searching in the right direction. It uses a different methodology and has come to the same conclusions," Mr Truss said.
Search vessel Havila Harmony is being deployed to comb the remainder of the hot spot, said ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan.
"Weather continues to impact on search operations, but the onset of summer is expected to bring more favourable conditions over the coming months," the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a separate update yesterday.
The search of the entire band was expected to be completed by June next year, Mr Truss said.
In July, a 2m-long flaperon wing part that washed up on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion was confirmed to be from the flight, marking the first concrete evidence that MH370 met a tragic end. No further trace has been found.
Yesterday's announcement did little to mollify the bereaved families. "Regardless of whether you expand or narrow the search area, it's useless," said Mr Wen Wancheng, 63, whose son was on board MH370.
"Whether it's guesswork or statistical data, investigators don't have evidence" of the fate of the flight.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG