KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, XINHUA, NYTIMES) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday (May 30) that the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which ended this week with no trace found may be resumed if new evidence comes to light.
“We have not found any evidence yet, so we have to come to a stage where we cannot keep searching for something we really cannot find,” Tun Dr Mahathir said at a press conference held after the weekly cabinet meeting.
He added that the new government will consider resuming the search if somebody can provide any information, but at the moment it must stop.
“We regret it very much, and we understand the feelings of the relatives, but we cannot keep on searching for this MH370 forever,” he said.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, becoming one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.
A privately funded underwater search for the missing jet ended on Tuesday.
The company, Ocean Infinity of Houston, which scoured the seabed for any sign of wreckage with support from the Malaysian government, announced that the search was winding down with no evidence of the plane's whereabouts.
"Part of our motivation for renewing the search was to try to provide some answers to those affected," Mr Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity's chief executive, said in a statement. "It is therefore with a heavy heart that we end our current search without having achieved that aim."
He did not rule out a future resumed hunt.
The plane, a Boeing 777 operated by Malaysia Airlines, deviated from its planned route north on March 8, 2014, for reasons that are still unknown.
After travelling south over the Indian Ocean, the plane is believed to have flown for about five hours before probably running out of fuel and disappearing.
Debris that may have come from the plane has washed up in Madagascar, Réunion Island and Tanzania.
The governments of Australia, Malaysia and China suspended the official search after scrutinizing about 46,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean floor at a cost of more than US$150 million.
Officials then concluded that the probable crash site was farther north.
The Malaysian government began the latest search in partnership with Ocean Infinity after pressure from families of the missing. Ocean Infinity agreed to participate as part of what the Malaysian government called a "no cure, no fee" agreement, under which the company could have received up to US$70 million if it found the wreckage or data recorders, and nothing if it did not.
The Seabed Constructor, a ship operated by the company, set out in January to begin searching. In a little over three months of searching, the investigation covered almost the same-sized area as the previous search had completed in 2.5 years, Ocean Infinity said in its statement.
But the investigators came no closer to finding the plane.
Mr Plunkett thanked Seabed Constructor crew members "who have worked tirelessly", and called the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's dedication to find the plane unwavering.
"We sincerely hope that we will be able to again offer our services in the search for MH370 in future," he said.