Saturday, March 03, 2018

Four years on, a high-tech vessel gives Flight MH370 kin hope for closure

Kuala Lumpur: In four days, the family members of the 239 people that perished on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will mark the fourth year since their loved ones vanished, their fates unknown to this day.

But a renewed sense of hope permeated this year’s remembrance of that fateful incident, as family members bet on the determination of a private sea exploration company and its state-of-the-art vessel, the Seabed Constructor, to locate the missing plane to hand what many of them have so long longed for — closure.
“To this day, there are those who still hope that their loved ones would one day return.

“But many also hope that by the discovery of the plane, then they could finally move on and have closure… never before have hope and despair sound so similar,” said KS Narendran from India in his tribute to his wife.

Narendran was among those who turned up at the Publika shopping mall that been the venue for the annual gathering of family, lovers and friends of those aboard Flight MH370 these past four years since the plane blipped off the radar just hours after it left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8, 2014.

Family members paid tributes and gave heartfelt speeches about what the incident intimately meant to them.

They recounted their shared nightmare in chronological order — from the time the news of the plane’s disappearance was announced to the moment of heartache that followed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 2015 announcement that all those on board are most likely dead.

Grace Nathan, whose mother Ann Daisy had boarded the flight, remembered the final blow was when the transport ministers of Malaysia, Australia and China decided to call off the underwater search in January last year due to inconclusive data and the prohibitive cost.

“I was broken,” the 29-year-old said as she addressed the audience and others like hers. “I couldn’t be quiet anymore and I wasn’t ready to accept the announcement.”

But just as public interest in the case began to wane, talks surfaced late last year that a private sea exploration company, Texas-based Ocean Infinity, had offered to locate the Boeing and said it could do so within 90 days, otherwise no charges would be incurred.

By November, Putrajaya confirmed the news; and Ocean would be paid RM360 million (US$90 million) if it succeeds.

The announcement breathed life into the despondent family members who otherwise would have had to live the rest of their lives without closure, something which many are yearning for.

Ocean Infinity CEO Oliver Pluckett, in a recorded video message sent to the family members and played back during the remembrance event, said the company have acquired crucial data and expressed confidence that its highly advanced equipment were very capable of zooming in on the doomed plane’s location.

“The data we obtained have been useful; we have high resolution camera capable of mapping out the seabed and all the equipment have worked tremendously well… we’ve searched up to 20,000 square kilometres of the seabed,” he said.

Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman who also attended today’s remembrance event, echoed the sentiment.

“We are satisfied with their expertise,” he said.

But the Seabed Constructor has found nothing conclusive yet after scouring more than 8000sq km of the new search area and the impending winter that is approaching in the weeks to come may make the campaign even tougher for the Ocean Infinity crew.
03/03/18 Syed Jaymal Zahiid/Malay mail online