A much-awaited report into Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 found no evidence to explain why it vanished, as the leaders of Malaysia and Australia declared that the search would go on for the plane one year after it disappeared.
The report by an international team of investigators, released yesterday, looked in detail at the plane's maintenance history, profiles of the crew, the cargo as well as radio and radar transmissions during its final minutes.
Analysis of the pilot and co-pilot's behaviour found it was normal just before and during the flight. "There were no behavioural signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, drug or alcohol abuse of the captain, first officer and the cabin crew," the 584- page interim report concluded. The engines were also operating normally when the plane - flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing - vanished soon after take-off on March 8 last year.
But the report also said the plane was carrying 221kg of lithium-ion batteries as cargo, which did not go through security screening before being loaded, adding that they were "inspected physically".
American carriers United Airlines and Delta announced this year that they would no longer carry bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries, after Federal Aviation Administration tests found that overheating batteries could cause major fires. But the report did not suggest that the batteries had anything to do with the plane's disappearance.
The report also noted that a battery for an underwater locator beacon for one of the two black boxes had expired a year earlier. An expired battery could have hampered efforts to locate the aircraft during the search.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak voiced hope that the plane would be found and said the government was committed to the search. His Australian counterpart Tony Abbott yesterday promised to continue following all credible leads and said the search in the treacherous southern Indian Ocean might even be expanded. Australia is leading the search in a rugged 60,000 sq km patch of sea floor about 1,600km west of the Australian city of Perth.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also said yesterday the search would not stop.
Relatives in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing marked yesterday's anniversary in tearful remembrance of missing loved ones. Some marched on the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing demanding answers, and dismissed the report because it failed to resolve the mystery. There were 153 Chinese citizens and 38 Malaysians on board MH370.
Relatives also gathered at the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing amid heavy police presence, wearing T-shirts saying, "Never give up, search on".
MAS yesterday held a gathering at its academy in Petaling Jaya to remember the 13 crew on board MH370. "We love them. We miss them and we will never forget them. They will always remain in our hearts," airline chairman Md Nor Yusof said in a statement.
A final report will not be issued until the investigation is completed. Until then, the investigation team has to release an interim statement on every anniversary of the disappearance to give updates on its progress.
Additional reporting by Esther Teo in Beijing