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MH370 passengers’ kin urge search resumption

IANS | Canberra |

Relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on Sunday said they will urge authorities to resume search operations that were called off on January 17.

The petition will be presented to the transport ministers of the tripartite nations — Malaysia, China and Australia — who were involved in the search, and who are holding meetings in Perth on Monday and Tuesday, Efe news reported.

The request comes after an unsuccessful official search operation, which combed 120,000 of the ocean bed, was suspended earlier this week.

"The MH370 next-of-kin implore the government of Malaysia to use this opportunity to urgently consult and reconsider the decision to suspend the search," the family support group Voice370 said in a statement.

Personal letters from a large number of family members appealing for the continuation of the search will also be handed to Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, the group added.

The decision to call off the operation was taken despite the December 20 recommendation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which led the search, that operations be extended to a 25,000 area north of the region scoured so far.

"Extending the search to the new area defined by the experts is an inescapable duty owed to the flying public in the interest of aviation safety. Planes cannot just be allowed to disappear without a trace," Voice370 previously said.

The victims' families had expressed great dismay over the silence of authorities and the aviation industry over the suspension, and called on international civil aviation organisations to urge for it to be reconsidered.

The search for the missing plane, the largest and most difficult in history, has cost more than $151 million, about $45 million of which was contributed by Australia.

The group said this amount is much lower than the $300 million cost of a Boeing 777 — the same as the missing craft — and announced an online campaign to demand the resumption of the operation.

Following the suspension, Australia said it could only resume the operation if credible new leads emerged, while Malaysia proposed to reward private groups if they located the plane fuselage.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8, 2014, around 40 minutes after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, when someone turned off the communication systems and turned the plane around.

On board were 153 Chinese, 50 Malaysians (including 12 crew members), seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French, three Americans, two New Zealanders, two Ukrainians, two Canadians, two Iranians, a Russian, a Dutchman and a Taiwanese.

Some plane parts swept in by currents from the Indian Ocean were recovered from beaches of Reunion, Mozambique, Mauritius, South Africa and the French island of Rodrigues.