The search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane could go on for another year until the most likely crash area has been covered, Australian and Malaysian officials said on Friday.
Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said he hoped French confirmation that a flaperon found on Reunion Island in July belonged to MH370 provided some sort of closure for families of the passengers and crew members.
“We are confident we are looking in the right area,” Truss said, adding it was frustrating the search had gone on so long without a result since the Boeing 777 disappeared on March 2014, with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.
Two ships towing sonar vehicles have covered 60,000 of the 120,000 square kilometres of the southern Indian Ocean where it is believed the plane went down after veering off course for an unknown reason after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
“The latest news, where the French authorities in Toulouse have further verified the piece of evidence found, definitely confirms the need to continue the search,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
“The strategic working group of Malaysia, China and Australia will get into action to intensify the search with the hope of finding more evidence as to the cause of the likely crash and eventually find the missing jetliner,” he added.
Truss said that once the area of highest probability had been covered, the countries involved had agreed the search would end, Truss said.
The weather in the southern Indian Ocean should improve through spring and into summer and that will accelerate the search.
The French prosecutor’s office said on Thursday that a wing part found on Reunion Island on July 29, 16 months after the flight disappeared, belonged to the missing aircraft.
French President Francois Hollande on Friday met with the families of four French passengers who were on board the plane, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.