Australia PM vows to continue hunt for missing Malaysia plane
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 had no time limit, despite the failure of an international operation to find any sign of the plane in three weeks of fruitless searching.
A total of 20 aircraft and ships were again scouring a massive area in the Indian Ocean some 2,000 km (1,200 miles) west of Perth, where investigators believe the Boeing 777 carrying 239 people came down.
"I'm certainly not putting a time limit on it," Abbott told reporters after meeting flight crews at Pearce airbase in Perth.
"The intensity of our search and the magnitude of our operations is increasing, not decreasing," he said, adding that searchers owed it to grieving families of passengers to continue the hunt.
Some families have strongly criticized Malaysia's handling of the search and investigation, including the decision last week to say that, based on satellite evidence, the plane had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean on March 8.
Abbott rejected suggestions his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, had been too hasty to break that news, given that no confirmed wreckage from the plane has been found and its last sighting on radar was northwest of Malaysia heading towards India.
"No, the accumulation of evidence is that the aircraft has been lost and it has been lost somewhere in the south of the Indian Ocean," he said.
Najib will travel to the western Australian city of Perth, the base for the search, on Wednesday to see the operations first hand, Malaysia's government said.
Malaysia says the plane, which disappeared less than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was likely diverted deliberately far off course. Investigators have determined no apparent motive or other red flags among the 227 passengers or the 12 crew.
China has also been critical in Malaysia's handling of the case, but in a sign of softening, the official China Daily said it was understandable that not all sensitive information could be made public.
"Although the Malaysian government's handling of the crisis has been quite clumsy, we need to understand that this is perhaps the most bizarre incident in Asia civil aviation history," the editorial on Monday read.
"Public opinion should not blame the Malaysian authorities for deliberately covering up information in the absence of hard evidence."