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Thursday, June 4, 2015, 10:34

Aussie-led search for MH370 to be called off

By Xinhua
Aussie-led search for MH370 to be called off

An undated handout photo obtained on September 29, 2014, shows the Australian-contracted survey ship M/V Fugro Discovery carrying out a high-resolution search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in early October 2014. (AFP PHOTO / FUGRO)

CANBERRA - The Australian-led search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is expected to be called off early next year.

Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC), which is leading the arduous and expensive search in the Indian Ocean for the Boeing 777, announced on Thursday it would not continue its mission beyond the current 120,000-kilometer zone without any new information.

The announcement will come as grim news for families and friends of the 239 people on board MH370, which vanished in March last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and end any forlorn hope they had that some wreckage or evidence might be found to give a clue to the fate of the plane, and its passengers.

Since the plane's disappearance, the JACC search has centered on a 1,600-kilometer arc, 2,000 kilometers west of Perth.

In April, the governments of Australia, Malaysia and China announced the remote search area would be doubled from the original 60,000 square kilometers.

But the lack of any meaningful progress forced the JACC to announce on Thursday that the search would be wound up early in 2016 unless there was a positive development in the meantime.

"In the absence of credible new information that leads to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, governments have agreed that there will be no further expansion of the search area," the JACC announced on Thursday.

The current search has already cost Australia US$80 millionand Malaysia US$45 million.

The isolated search area, determined by analyzing scant satellite data from the plane's final hours, takes vessels more than six days to reach from Perth. Rough winter seas have also delayed recent search efforts.

No wreckage from MH370 has ever been found, leading Malaysian authorities in January to declare that all passengers on the flight, including 152 Chinese nationals, were presumed dead.

The deep underwater search, currently in choppy seas of up to 12 meters, scours the seabed to depths of more than 4000 meters.

The speed of the search will increase when conditions improve, however GO Phoenix will cease operations and return to Singapore at the end of the month.

A fourth vessel previously involved in the search, Fugro Supporter, which carried an autonomous underwater vehicle that scans the ocean bed, was withdrawn in May.

More than 50,000 square kilometers of the seafloor has already been searched so far.

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