News / Asia

    Few Clues But More Lawsuits on MH370 Disappearance Anniversary

    Relatives of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 speak to journalists during a gathering outside the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing on the two year anniversary, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.
    Relatives of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 speak to journalists during a gathering outside the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing on the two year anniversary, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

    Two years to the day after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, an interim statement issued about the aviation mystery contains no significant new information.

    "To date the MH370 wreckage has still not been found despite the continuing search in the South Indian Ocean," said the chief of the international investigation team, Kok Soo Chon, in a brief statement he read on Malaysian television.

    The multinational effort, extending to 2,000 kilometers off of Australia's west coast, has found no trace of the jet or any of the 239 people on board.

    The international Air Accident Investigation Team's three-page written statement, issued Tuesday, says it “is continuing to work towards finalizing its analysis, findings/conclusions and safety recommendations on eight relevant areas associated with the disappearance," including flight crew profiles, the diversion from the filed route and satellite communications.

    The 19-member team will complete a final report "in the event wreckage of the aircraft is located or the search for the wreckage is terminated, whichever is the earlier," according to the fresh statement.

    FILE - Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai(C) speaks at a news conference about debris found on a beach in Mozambique that may be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 3, 2016.
    FILE - Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai(C) speaks at a news conference about debris found on a beach in Mozambique that may be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 3, 2016.

    MH370 was supposed to land in Beijing but it veered sharply off course, continuing on a straight path across the Indian Ocean after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014.

    “We remain committed to doing everything within our means to solving what is an agonizing mystery for the loved ones of those who were lost,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in a statement issued Tuesday.

    The search for the aircraft, the prime minister added, “has been the most challenging in aviation history.”

    Several ships are still actively conducting underwater search operations.

    The high-tech operation, by Australian, Malaysian and Chinese authorities, costing up to $130 million, is due to conclude in July.

    The three countries are to hold a meeting next week to determine the next step as the deadline approaches.

    Pieces of evidence

    The only evidence has washed up far from the 120,000 square kilometers of seafloor where the official search has been underway.

    A barnacle-encrusted wing fragment was found July 29 last year on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. It was the first confirmed piece of the Malaysia Airlines plane to be found.

    The man who found it has said he turned over another suspected plane part to island authorities last week. He described it as being honeycombed and lightweight, measuring about 40 by 20 centimeters with a blue mark on the surface and grey underneath.

    A white, meter-long chunk of metal discovered on the coast of Mozambique is also being examined to determine whether it is part of the missing Boeing 777.

    That piece of debris was found at a location consistent with drift modeling, according to Australian officials.

    FILE - This image taken from video, shows a piece of debris from a plane, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion.
    FILE - This image taken from video, shows a piece of debris from a plane, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion.

    Malaysian authorities have said it appears to be a slice of an airliner's horizontal stabilizer.

    Tuesday's second interim statement (the initial one was issued on the first anniversary of the plane going missing) makes no mention of the Mozambique debris nor the possible second piece of the aircraft found on the French island.

    Under international agreement, two years from the date of the plane's scheduled arrival, Tuesday is the last day for relatives to file lawsuits related to the loss of MH370.

    Chinese kin of dozens of MH370 passengers have filed lawsuits this week in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.

    Relatives of American, Australian, Malaysian, Russian and Ukrainian passengers and crew, who are presumed dead, have also initiated legal action.

    The families have also criticized both the airline and the Malaysian government, saying both treated them poorly after the flight disappeared and have issued scant information, giving rise to conspiracy theories and speculation the carrier and authorities are trying to shield themselves from further embarrassment.


    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

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