Malaysia to resume MH370 hunt five years on

A relative carries copies of the official report on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 in Beijing on August 3, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2019
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Malaysia to resume MH370 hunt five years on

  • Ocean Infinity mounted a “no cure, no fee” search for the plane in the southern Indian Ocean in January 2018
  • But search ended in May without any clue on where it could have crashed

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s transport minister said Sunday that the government is open to new proposals from US technology firm Ocean Infinity or any other companies to resume the hunt for Flight 370, as families of passengers marked the fifth anniversary of the jet’s mysterious disappearance.
Ocean Infinity mounted a “no cure, no fee” search for the plane in the southern Indian Ocean in January 2018 that ended in May without any clue on where it could have crashed. But the company’s CEO, Oliver Plunkett, said in a video shown at the public remembrance event at a mall near Kuala Lumpur that the company hopes to resume the hunt with better technology it obtained in the past year.
The Ocean Infinity mission came a year after an official search by Malaysia, Australia and China ended in futility.
Plunkett said his company has better technology now after successfully locating an Argentinian submarine in November, a year after it went missing. He said the firm is still reviewing all possible data on Flight 370 and thinking about how it can revive its failed mission.
“We haven’t given up hope ... We hope we can continue the search in due course,” Plunkett said.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke said it’s been frustrating that the two searches failed to produce any clues and that he “welcomes credible leads and also concrete proposals to resume the search.”
He told reporters later Sunday that the government is “waiting for specific proposals, in particular from Ocean Infinity.” He brushed off suggestions of offering rewards to find the plane, but said the government is willing to discuss proposals from any companies prepared to resume the search.
“There must be a proposal from a specific company ... we cannot just be out there without credible leads. That’s the most practical thing to do,” Loke said.
The plane vanished with 239 people on board on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Confirmed debris that washed ashore in the western Indian Ocean helped narrow the search area where Ocean Infinity focused, but it failed to uncover any evidence.
A Malaysian-led independent investigation report released last July showed lapses in the government’s response and raised the possibility of “intervention by a third party.”
Investigators, however, said the cause of the disappearance cannot be determined until the wreckage and the plane’s black boxes are found. The report reiterated Malaysia’s assertion that the plane was deliberately diverted and flown for over seven hours after severing communications.
But it said there was no evidence of abnormal behavior or stress in the two pilots that could lead them to hijack the plane. All the other passengers were also cleared by police and had no pilot training.
Voice 370, a support group for next-of-kin, expressed hope that the new government that won a general election in May last year will do more to encourage search missions and seek new clues.
The group’s spokeswoman, Grace Nathan, urged the government to set aside up to $70 million — the amount it agreed to pay Ocean Infinity had it found the plane — to encourage exploration companies to take on “no cure, no fee” missions so that Flight 370’s passengers will not have died in vain.
“It is a wound that cannot heal” if there is no closure, Nathan said.
Another family member, K.S. Narendran from India, said the burden is on the government to be proactive and not wait for credible evidence to fall on its lap. He said there has been no government effort to find more debris on African beaches and Indian Ocean islands, where scattered pieces of the Boeing 777 have been found.
During the remembrance event, family members lit candles and sang songs in tribute to their loved ones. Relatives and supporters wore light blue T-shirts that read, “It’s not history, it’s the future. Fly safely,” as they reminded the government that the mystery must be solved to ensure aviation safety.


Four more deaths on traffic-jammed Everest

Updated 6 min 17 sec ago
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Four more deaths on traffic-jammed Everest

KATHMANDU: A traffic jam of climbers in the Everest “death zone” was blamed for two of four new deaths reported Friday, heightening concerns that the drive for profits is trumping safety on the world’s highest peak.
Nepal has issued a record 381 permits costing $11,000 each for the current spring climbing season, bringing in much-needed money for the impoverished Himalayan country.
But a small window of suitable weather before the short season ends has in recent days triggered bottlenecks of hundreds of climbers wanting to achieve for many — although perhaps not for purists — the ultimate in mountaineering.
The four latest deaths reported on Friday, taking the toll from a deadly week on the overcrowded peak to eight, include two Indians and a Nepali on the Nepal side and an Austrian on the way down on the northern Tibetan side, officials and expedition organizers said.
Ang Tsering Sherpa, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said that the weather window to summit this season was narrow, meaning that many teams had to wait to go up.
“Spending a long time above the death zone increases the risk of frostbite, altitude sickness and even death,” he said.
Kalpana Das, 52, reached the summit but died on Thursday afternoon while descending, as a huge number of climbers queued near the top. The other Indian, Nihal Bagwan, 27, also died on his way back from the summit.
“He was stuck in the traffic for more than 12 hours and was exhausted. Sherpa guides carried him down to Camp 4 but he breathed his last there,” said Keshav Paudel of Peak Promotion.
A 33-year-old Nepali guide died at the base camp on Friday after he was rescued from Camp 3 for falling sick.
Wednesday claimed the lives of an American and another Indian.
Donald Lynn Cash, 55, collapsed at the summit as he was taking photographs, while Anjali Kulkarni, also 55, died while descending after reaching the top.
Kulkarni’s expedition organizer, Arun Treks, said heavy traffic at the summit had delayed her descent and caused the tragedy.
“She had to wait for a long time to reach the summit and descend,” said Thupden Sherpa. “She couldn’t move down on her own and died as Sherpa guides brought her down.”
Pasang Tenje Sherpa, of Pioneer Adventure, told AFP that Cash collapsed on the summit and died close to Hillary Step as guides were bringing him back.
Last week, an Indian climber died and an Irish mountaineer went missing after he slipped and fell close to the summit and is presumed dead.
The Irish professor was in the same team as Saray Khumalo, 47, who this week became the first black African woman to climb Everest and who is hoping to conquer the highest summits on each of the seven continents.
Mountaineering in Nepal has become a lucrative business since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent of Everest in 1953.
Most Everest hopefuls are escorted by a Nepali guide, meaning more than 750 climbers were expected to tread the same path to the top in the current season.
At least 140 others have been granted permits to scale Everest from the northern flank in Tibet, according to expedition operators. This could take the total past last year’s record of 807 people reaching the summit.
“About 550 climbers have summited the world tallest mountain by Thursday according to the data provided by expedition organizers to us,” said Mira Acharya, spokeswoman for Nepal’s Tourism Department
Many Himalayan mountains — including Everest — are at peak climbing season, with the window of good weather between late April and the end of May.
Eight other climbers have died on other 8,000-meter Himalayan peaks this season, while two are missing.
In 2015, 18 people were killed at the Everest base camp because of an avalanche triggered by a quake.
In happier news, two Sherpa widows, Furdiki Sherpa and Nima Doma Sherpa reached the summit of Everest on Thursday, their team coordinator confirmed.
The two want to force a rethink about the role of widows in their conservative community, after their husbands died on the world’s highest mountain.
“We want to climb Everest with a message for widows and single women. We are not less than anyone, we are capable of achieving anything,” Nima Doma said in an interview with AFP ahead of the expedition.
French climber Elisabeth Revol, who was dramatically rescued last year from Pakistan’s Mount Nanga Parbat, summited Lhotse Friday morning, a day after reaching the top of Everest.