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article imageSearchers see end to two-year hunt for Malaysia Airlines MH370

By Nathan Salant     Jul 23, 2016 in World
Putrajaya - Countries still looking for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with little success may be getting ready to call off the search.
Officials from Australia, Malaysia and China said Friday that the underwater electronic search for the missing Boeing 777 jetliner was winding up and that they had agreed to "suspend" search activities if the aircraft is not found.
"In the absence of new evidence, Malaysia, Australia and China have collectively decided to suspend the search upon completion of the 120,000-square-kilometer (46,300-square-mile) search area," Malaysia's transport minister, Liow Tiong Lai, said Friday at a news conference.
The search, which will continue until December, is already the most extensive aviation search in history, costing $135 million U.S., according to the Associated Press.
More than 230 passengers and crew were lost on March 8, 2014, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared from radar screens on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Investigators believe the plane veered off course and flew west, possibly on autopilot, before it exhausted its fuel and crashed in the Indian Ocean.
Drift modeling, and the few pieces of likely wreckage that have been found, appear to support that theory.
But why the plane would have changed direction without notifying air traffic controllers or sending any distress calls are still unexplained.
Malaysia, Australia and China led the search because the plane was owned by Malaysia Airlines, it apparently went down off Australia and most of the passengers on flight to Beijing were Chinese, the AP said.
But many countries sent equipment and personnel to assist the search, including the United States.
Most of the governments involved have been spurred to action by furious relatives of the passengers who wanted more done and in a shorter time, and now feel betrayed again that authorities were considering ending the search without finding the remains of their loved ones.
"I will never agree with the decision to suspend the search," said Zhang Qian, whose wife, Wang Houbin, was a passenger on Flight 370.
"We will definitely gather to protest it and I have lost confidence to the Malaysian government," he said.
But Grace Subathirai Nathan of Malaysia whose mother, Anne Daisy, was on the flight was more circumspect.
"We don't want the suspension to be just a way to let everyone calm down and slowly forget about it," Nathan said.
"We want them to be doing something in the interim to look for new information," she said.
Australia's transport minister Darren Chester said experts will be doing exactly that, continuing to analyze data to better refine the search area in an effort to come up with something.
"Future searches must have a high level of success to justify raising hopes of loved ones," he said.
Liow and Chester were joined by Yang Chuantang, China's transport minister, at Thursday's press conference in Malaysia, the AP said.
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