The hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be suspended once the current search area in the Indian Ocean has been completely scoured, the ministers of the three countries conducting the operation announced Friday, possibly ending all hopes of solving aviation's greatest mystery. In the absence of new evidence, Malaysia, Australia, and China have collectively decided to suspend the search upon completion of the 120,000-square-kilometer (46,300-square-mile) search area," Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said after a meeting with his Australian and Chinese counterparts, the AP reports. He said the current search is being hampered by bad weather and damaged equipment, but it will still end by December.
The minister said suspension of the search does not mean an end to it. "Should credible new information emerge which can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given in determining next steps," he said, reading from a joint statement. But it was clear that the searchers have given up hope of finding the jetliner with less than 3,900 square miles left to be searched. In their statement, the ministers acknowledged that "the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading." As Liow and the other two ministers were addressing the news conference, representatives of the passengers' families stood outside the building holding placards. "Find the plane, ease our pain," read one sign. (The search may have been in the wrong place.)