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Thu Sep 01 01:30:54 SAST 2016

Two years on, MH370 families say search for missing jet must continue

REUTERS | 06 March, 2016 12:26

The families of passengers lost aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 say the two-year search for the missing aircraft must go on beyond a June deadline, as new hope emerged last week of resolving the aviation mystery.

Debris found off the African coast rekindled hope for many, prompting relatives like Grace Subathirai Nathan to demand investigators go back over mistakes made early on.

"A lot of it was based on calculations that had never been used before, where there's room for human error," Nathan said in an interview. Nathan's mother, Anne Daisy, was on board when MH370 disappeared on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew on board.

Some 120,000 sq km (46,300 sq mi) of the sea floor is being scoured at an estimated cost of about A$170 million ($124.17 million). But no trace of the missing Boeing 777 has been found except for a wing part, known as a flaperon, which surfaced on Reunion island off Madagascar last July.

Australia said in August that initial drift models of where debris from the jet might first wash up had incorrectly identified Indonesia as the most likely location.

"If that could be wrong, what else could be wrong?" Nathan, a 28-year-old lawyer, said.

A meeting set for June between Australia, Malaysia, and China will determine whether to extend the search.

But families are calling for the search to continue after the discovery last week of a white, metre-long chunk of metal suspected to be from MH370 off the coast of Mozambique. Just as they prepare to mark the two-year anniversary of the jet's disappearance, the relatives are asking for efforts to focus on the southeast African coast.

Voice370, a support group for MH370 next-of-kin, said last week in a statement that the claims of funds drying up was "unacceptable" as a reason for ending the investigation, which they say could benefit the broader industry and increase safety.

BACK TO DRAWING BOARD

On Sunday, scores of family and friends of those on board the plane gathered at a mall in Kuala Lumpur in a memorial seeking to "re-investigate, re-evaluate, re-start" the search.

Accompanied by poignant musical and dance performances, the next-of-kin made an impassioned plea for search efforts to continue until the plane is found.

"They can stop the search, but where do we stop the feeling of loss? We want them to try, if possible, to continue searching for MH370," said Jacquita Gonzales, the wife of MH370 in-flight supervisor Patrick Gomes.

MH370 vanished from radar screens shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, and investigators believe it was flown thousands of miles off course before eventually crashing into the ocean off Australia.

A 584-page interim report into the disappearance of the Boeing 777-200ER released on the first anniversary provided details on how radars tracked the plane going off course and issues concerning the battery of the flight data recorder's underwater locator beacon.

However, it did not identify a definitive cause for the disappearance, adding there was nothing suspicious in the financial, medical or personal histories of pilots or crew.

The next interim report will be released on Tuesday.

"It is definitely their duty to continue to investigate this case, because until now they have not made any substantial progress," said Beijing resident Steve Wang, whose mother was on the flight.

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