(Transcript from World News Radio)

 

Australia, China and Malaysia say they’ll double the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 if wreckage is not found in the current target area.

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Mystery still surrounds the jetliner’s fate, which disappeared without a trace in March last year with 239 people on board.

 

Darren Mara reports on the latest in the efforts to find the plane.

 

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has faced the media in Kuala Lumpur, alongside the Chinese and Malaysian transport ministers.

 

His Malaysian counterpart, Liow Tiong Lai, had this message for the families of those on board the missing flight.

 

“All three nations are committed to the search for MH370. If we cannot locate the aircraft within the 60,000 square kilometres, we will continue the second phase of another 60,000 square kilometre search. So, this is the commitment given by the three governments.”

 

About 60 per cent of the current zone in the Indian Ocean off the West Australian coast has been searched.

 

It’s investigators’ best guess as to where the plane might have crashed.

 

It’s thought the first search phase will be finished some time in May.

 

Warren Truss is involved in the search in his capacity as federal minister for transport.

 

He says expanding the search zone would cover the entire highest probability area identified by expert analysis.

 

“So there is no change in the search zone, we are just moving, like Minister Liow said, to widen out the search area and to extend it in every direction.”

 

The second phase of the search would cost an estimated 50 million dollars, which would be shared by Malaysia and Australia.

 

Mr Truss says it’s expected the second search zone would take at least the rest of this year to scour.

 

But, he says, if MH370 is there, they’ll find it.

 

“I am very confident that we have the best search equipment in the world and if the aircraft is in the area that we’re looking in we will find it. The high resolution of the picture that the ministers have been shown today gives us a high level of confidence that if there is any piece of the aircraft that’s within the range of these vehicles, they will pick it up and be able to identify it.”

 

Mr Truss says he remains optimistic search teams will be able to recover the aircraft, which vanished from radar screens shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing.

 

Investigators believe it was flown thousands of miles off course before eventually crashing.

 

Four vessels equipped with sophisticated underwater drones have been searching a previously unmapped expanse of rugged sea floor, but have been unable to yield results.

 

Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang says search teams haven’t given up hope of finding MH370.

 

(translated) “We will have a more positive attitude and adopt more positive measures to search for the plane. For instance, we will select and dispatch capable vehicles and vessels, and transform certain devices and equipment in efforts to find the plane.”