Update as of 3:17 a.m. EDT: Government officials from Australia, China and Malaysia confirmed Thursday that the search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will be doubled if the plane is not found in the current search zone by May. The extended search of 23,166 square miles in the southern Indian Ocean could take up to a year.
“We’ll find the plane at all costs,” China’s transport minister said, during a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, adding that the country will cooperate with Australia and Malaysia to solve the mystery of Flight MH370’s disappearance. Efforts to locate the plane have continued for over a year and cost millions of dollars, making it the most expensive search operation in aviation history.
Australia Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said that authorities are searching for the plane in the right area, and expressed hope that the jetliner will be found “in the next few months.”
The search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is likely to be doubled by the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China, according to an email sent to the next-of-kin of those on board the plane, which went missing on March 8, 2014. The Boeing 777-200 was on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board.
The email reportedly stated that an additional 23,166 square miles in the southern Indian Ocean will be searched if clues to the whereabouts of the missing plane are not found in the current priority search zone, Channel News Asia reported. Over 60 percent of the priority search zone, located about 1,100 miles off the western coast of Australia in the southern Indian Ocean, has so far been scoured. Authorities believe that the current search will mostly likely be completed by next month.
Officials from Australia, China and Malaysia -- three countries with the most number of people on board the plane -- are scheduled to meet Thursday in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the future of the search for Flight MH370 and announce the latest developments. Malaysia's transport ministry had said last month that, if the plane is not found by May 2015, a new search plan would be implemented after reviewing all the data unearthed so far.
On Wednesday, the victims' families urged the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the governments of Australia, China and Malaysia, as well as several aviation regulators to keep the search alive.
Voice370, a group for the next-of-kin of those on board Flight MH370, pleaded to authorities to “support and fund the continued search for the missing flight MH370 to enable the investigation team to determine what happened to this flight.
“And in the interest of aviation safety, to support the development of remedial measures to prevent a recurrence of a similar event and to bring about a closure to the suffering families, relatives and friends,” the group said, in a statement, according to reports.
Four vessels -- Fugro Discovery, Fugro Equator, Fugro Supporter and GO Phoenix -- are currently involved in the search operation along the seventh arc, which has been described as “a thin but long line that includes all the possible points where the last known communication between the aircraft and the communication satellite could have taken place.”