Australia has refuted a report claiming that an underwater search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 would be called off within the next few weeks, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday. The search for Flight MH370, which is currently being led by Australia, has continued for almost a year with no clues as to the plane's whereabouts.
A Reuters report published Monday, citing Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, had stated that countries involved in the search for Flight MH370 are debating whether to call off the search. However, Brett Heffernan, a senior media adviser to Truss, said the Reuters report had "overstated the lead in a big way."
"Discussions are not under way to call off the search. Discussions are ongoing about the search," the spokesman said, in an email to Xinhua news. "If, however, the plane is not found at the completion of the search (expected around May 2015), then discussions will be held between Australia, Malaysia, China and potentially others on the next steps."
According to the Reuters report, Truss had said that Australia, China and Malaysia are discussing calling off the search within weeks. "We clearly cannot keep searching forever, but we want to do everything that's reasonably possible to locate the aircraft," Truss told Reuters.
Meanwhile, the chief of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday that an underwater search for MH370 has so far found no sign of the jet. The Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and its search has become the costliest in aviation history.
Martin Dolan, ATSB's chief commissioner, reportedly said that, during a sonar search manmade items such as shipping containers were detected but there was nothing that resembled debris from Flight MH370. He added that nearly 40 percent of the narrowed search area in the southern Indian Ocean had been scoured so far. Four vessels -- Fugro Equator, Fugro Discovery, Fugro Supporter and GO Phoenix -- are part of the search, which is jointly being funded by Australia and Malaysia.
"The decision about what's next, which is hypothetical at this stage, is one for governments," Dolan told AFP. "From our point of view... we've only searched 40 percent of it, and our focus is on searching the rest of that area and we expect to find the aircraft there. We just can't guarantee it will happen."