In a speech to parliament on March 5, the Australian prime minister has hinted that the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may be scaled back. The latest operational update from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said no object has been found of high interest that warrant immediate further investigation.
Australia had accepted the responsibility to search for MH370 at the request of the Malaysian Government. ATSB had since led the underwater search for the plane in the southern Indian Ocean. However, in the lead up to the anniversary of the flight’s disappearance, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott hinted that the country might cut back its search efforts. The prime minister did not elaborate how or when the action will take place.
In his speech at the parliament, Abbott described MH370 as the biggest search operation of its kind in history, an extraordinary example of international cooperation. He recalled that just within the first few weeks of MH370’s disappearance, 28 search aircraft from Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the United States completed 345 sorties into the southern Indian Ocean. Also, Australia, China, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States sent their respective ships to conduct the search for the missing Boeing 777.
Abbott acknowledged that MH370 is the largest underwater search ever carried out by Australia, in an area that had never been mapped before. He said the search zone is in the “Roaring Forties,” one of the world’s roughest stretches of ocean.
“With sadness… I have to admit to the House that, so far, we have not found any trace of MH370. I can’t promise that the search will go on at this intensity forever, but we will continue our very best efforts to resolve this mystery and provide some answers,” Mr Abbott said in his speech.
Mr Abbott gave a message to all of the families of MH370, saying that they all remain in the thoughts and prayers of the Australian people.
“To you – and to all those with loved ones aboard that flight – my pledge is that we are taking every reasonable step to bring your uncertainty to an end.”
March 5 Operational Update
As per the update given by ATSB on March 5, there are already more than 26,000 square kilometers of sea floor searched, over 40 percent of the priority search area.
“Assuming no other significant delays with vessels, equipment or from the weather, the current underwater search area may be largely completed around May 2015,” ATSB said in its announcement.
ATSB had categorized the sonar objects found underwater into three classifications:
- Classification 3 is assigned to sonar contacts that are of some interest as they stand out from their surroundings but have low probability of being significant to the search.
- Classification 2 sonar contacts are of comparatively more interest but are still likely to be significant to the search.
- Classification 1 sonar contacts are of high interest and warrant immediate further investigation.
ATSB had identified 100 sonar objects classified under category 2 and 10 objects classified under category 3.
“To date, no seabed features have been classified as category 1,” ATSB said in its report.
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