Missing plane MH370: Malaysia 'will not give up'

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak pays tribute to search teams

Malaysia will not give up on the search for missing flight MH370, its prime minister said as he visited the search hub in Perth.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's comments came at a joint news conference with Australian leader Tony Abbott.

Mr Najib praised the search effort, saying the co-operation amid "great tragedy" had "given us all heart".

The Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared on 8 March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It was carrying 239 people.

Planes and ships have been scouring the southern Indian Ocean, where the jet is believed to have crashed.

The focus of the search is a 221,000 sq km (85,000 sq mile) area 1,500km (932 miles) west of Perth.

Malaysia Airlines ex-steward Patrick Chow says the cabin crew he knew could not be responsible for the plane's disappearance

Royal Australian Air Force P-3C Orion aircraft on the tarmac of RAAF Base Pearce near Perth. 2 April 2014 Search planes have been taking off from Perth every day, weather permitting
Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat deployed from the Australian Navy ship the HMAS Success Many objects have been pulled from the water, but none of them from the missing plane

But so far not a single piece of debris from the Boeing 777 has been found.

'Herculean task'

Mr Najib met search crews at Pearce RAAF base near Perth on Thursday morning, before their planes left for the day, and then later held talks with Mr Abbott.

Analysis

The sea bed in this area is like an underwater Alps, according to oceanographers. In some places it's 4.5km deep with 2.5km high mountains - the kind of terrain that hides its secrets.

It's easy to look at all this hi-tech hardware arriving on the scene and to think that it's bound to find something soon. The "towed pinger locator", which is a super-microphone basically, will be listening out for "pings" from the black boxes. There's a Royal Navy nuclear submarine there too, listening out.

But they had the same kit when they searched for Air France 447, the airliner that crashed into the Atlantic five years ago. They even searched in the right place, but still they didn't hear anything. Why? Both the "pingers" failed to work. In the end it was located with sonar mapping and advanced maths.

They might get lucky, but they're playing a bad hand. Five years ago searchers knew roughly where the French airliner came down and they still took nearly two years to find it. In this case, they have no idea yet where flight MH370 hit the water.

"The disappearance of MH370 has tested our collective resolve," he told a news conference.

"Faced with so little evidence, and such a Herculean task, investigators from Malaysia, the US, the UK, China, Australia and France have worked without pause to reveal the aircraft's movements."

He thanked both search teams and the Australian government for their efforts in recent weeks, and said the search would go on.

"I know that until we find the plane, many families cannot start to grieve. I cannot imagine what they must be going through. But I can promise them that we will not give up," he said.

Malaysian authorities have come in for heavy criticism over their management of the search, especially from relatives of the plane's 153 Chinese passengers.

On Thursday, eight military planes and nine ships were due to take part in the search.

Weather conditions were fair, with visibility of approximately 10km (6 miles), the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) - which is overseeing the search - said.

The British submarine HMS Tireless is also in the southern Indian Ocean and is due to be joined by Royal Navy ship HMS Echo.

The Australian Navy ship Ocean Shield is heading to the region and has equipment for detecting the plane's "black-box" flight recorder.

Experts say timing is critical as the flight recorder may only have enough battery power to send out a signal until 7 April.

Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, head of the JACC, warned that the search operation faced multiple difficulties.

"This is one of the most demanding and challenging search and rescue operations, or search and recovery operations, that I have ever seen and I think probably one of the most complex operations of this nature that the world has ever seen,'' he told Mr Najib and Mr Abbott.

MH370 - Facts at a glance

  • 8 March: Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight carrying 239 people disappears
  • Plane's transponder, which communicates with ground radar, was switched off as it left Malaysian airspace
  • Satellite 'pings' indicate plane was still flying seven hours after satellite contact was lost
  • 24 March: Based on new calculations, Malaysian PM says "beyond reasonable doubt" that plane crashed in southern Indian Ocean with no survivors

On Wednesday Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said investigators had "cleared" all passengers of possible involvement in hijacking, sabotage or having personal or psychological problems that could have been connected to the disappearance.

But he said that the criminal investigation could "go on and on and on. We have to clear every little thing".

"At the end of the investigations, we may not even know the real cause. We may not even know the reason for this incident," he added.

The police chief said that more than 170 interviews had been conducted with family members of the pilots and crew members, and that even cargo and food served on the plane were being investigated in case of sabotage.

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