The Malaysian government won't push to extend the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, or MH370, if Australia decides to stop looking by the summer, according to Deputy Transport Minister Ab Aziz Kaprawi.
He told reporters Wednesday: "If we have completed searching in the determined area, we will agree with Australia, which is heading the search, and the advice of experts to cease the mission," Bernama reported.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has long said it plans to give up the hunt for MH370 if, after its roughly 2-year-long sweep of the Indian Ocean, no credible leads are found. As of this week's operational update, more than 105,000 of the 120,000 square kilometers of seafloor in the designated search area have been scanned. Only a few pieces of likely debris from the Boeing 777 have turned up so far, and all of them have been discovered by civilians walking beaches — not experts involved in the $130 million search.
Ab Aziz's comments followed Tuesday reports that quoted ATSB head Martin Dolan admitting the missing plane may never turn up, the Guardian reported. “When we walked into this, the best advice we had from all experts is that it was highly probably [sic], but not certain, the aircraft would be found in this area," Dolan said. "We have to contemplate now the possibility that we will not find the aircraft.”
Dolan also said he remained optimistic the plane, which vanished in March 2014 with 239 people on board, would be found before the mission ended. However, he acknowledged that returning with no results would disappoint "a lot" of people.
Also this week, the Malaysia High Court upheld two prison sentences for a couple accused of taking money from MH370 victims. Basheer Ahmad Maula Sahul Hameed and Nur Shila reportedly transferred and withdrew thousands of dollars from four late passengers' bank accounts. They will serve six and seven years, respectively, according to Bernama.