SYDNEY: The deep sea hunt for missing flight MH370 has been suspended, the Australian, Malaysian and Chinese governments said Tuesday (Jan 17).
The Malaysia Airlines aircraft disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, carrying 239 passengers and crew.
The plane "has not been located" in the 120,000 square kilometre (46,000 square mile) search area of the southern Indian Ocean, a statement from the three nations said.
"To date no new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft. Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended."
The governments said the suspension, which was flagged by Malaysia earlier this month, was not "taken lightly nor without sadness" but that "to date no new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft".
"We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that at some point in the future the aircraft will be located."
Investigators have so far confirmed that three pieces of debris washed up and recovered on western Indian Ocean shorelines came from MH370.
Other pieces recovered mostly on western Indian Ocean shorelines have been identified as likely, though not definitely, from MH370.
New analysis by Australian and international experts released in December 2016 concluded MH370 was not in the search zone - a long stretch of water within the so-called seventh arc where the plane was calculated to have emitted a final satellite "handshake" - and might be further north.
They identified an area of approximately 25,000 square kilometres with the highest probability of containing wreckage, but Australia and Malaysia said the report did not constitute a strong enough lead to extend the search.
MAS REMAINS 'HOPEFUL'
In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said that it remains hopeful the missing aircraft would be eventually found.
"With regards to the MH370 Tripartite Communique issued by the governments of Australia, China and Malaysia, Malaysian Airline System Berhad (Administrator Appointed) ("MAS") stands guided by the decision of the three governments to suspend the search for the missing MH370 flight.
"The search has been a thorough and comprehensive effort spanning over 120,000sq km of the South Indian Ocean and we share in the sorrow that the search has not produced the outcome that everyone had hoped for."
It added: "MAS remains hopeful that in the near future, new and significant information will come to light and the aircraft would eventually be located."
However, relatives of the MH370 victims said they were "dismayed" about the decision to suspend the search.
In a statement, Voice370, an international group of MH370 next-of-kin, appealed for the search to be resumed.
"We appeal to Malaysia, China and Australia to reconsider the decision to suspend the search," the group said.
It also appealed to "all nations" as well as other organisations and the aviation industry to "prevail upon the aforementioned countries" to continue. Citing the decision by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to recommend a new search area north of the present one, the group said that extending the search to this new area was "an inescapable duty owed to the flying public".
"Commercial planes cannot just be allowed to disappear without a trace."