Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: If the massive undersea search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 turns up nothing by the end of May, the three countries leading the effort will re-examine data and come up with a new plan, Malaysia's transport minister said Saturday.
Liow Tiong Lai told a select group of foreign reporters on the eve of the anniversary of the plane's disappearance during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that he remains cautiously optimistic that the Boeing 777 should be in the area of the southern Indian Ocean where the search has been ongoing.
Malaysia's government on Jan. 29 formally declared the plane an accident and said all 239 people on board were presumed dead.
Lai said that Australia, Malaysia and China were due to meet next month to discuss the search efforts.
"By the end of May, if we still can't find the plane, then we will have to go back to the drawing board," he said in the interview. "We rely on the expert group ... to come up with the plan. I am cautiously optimistic it should be in this area."
He said that ships looking for debris from the plane at the ocean seafloor off the coast of western Australia have so far scoured more than 40 percent of the 60,000 square feet area where the search has been focused on. In the latest report he received Friday, he said the search team identified 10 hard objects which are still to be analyzed.
Such findings, which often include trash and cargo containers from passing ships, have been common and so far no trace of wreckage has been located.
Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said last week that if the plane isn't found by May, one option is to expand the hunt beyond the current search zone into a wider area surrounding it.