KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia said on Friday that nothing has so far been found in the Bay of Bengal with regard to a report by an Australian exploration company that it might have located the wreckage of the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370 aircraft.
"On the Bay of Bengal allegation, we agree with Angus Houston's statement that this claim is highly unlikely. Many leads in the past have proven to be negative and this is similar to what we have done before. There is nothing new but we have informed the littoral states to verify this claim," said Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, the second for the day.
"Currently, there are three naval ships from Bangladesh including a survey ship in the search area. To date, nothing has been found."
Mr Hishammuddin was speaking at a joint press conference with Angus Houston, chief of the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC), and president of the French Aviation Accident Investigation Bureau (and previous head of the Air France 447 investigation team) Jean-Paul Troadec, Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin and Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri.
Houston said one of the three Bangladeshi navy ships scouring the Bay of Bengal is equipped with echo-sound capability to assist in ensuring a thorough search in that particular area.
"But I will say very quickly that I have the heaviest weight put on all the evidence that is before us, the great work that the world team here in Kuala Lumpur has found, the analysis of the manual handshakes between the aircraft and the satellite.
"And also, the simulation work has been done to define the area in the southern Indian Ocean. I'm confident the area in the southern (Indian) ocean is the right search area and I'm sure that in time, we will find the aircraft in that area of the Indian Ocean," he said.
It was reported that an Australian exploration firm, GeoResonance had claimed to have found the wreckage of MH370 in the Bay of Bengal, about 5,000 kilometres from the current search area.
Touching on the new lead, Mr Hishammuddin said he at first was looking at the possibility of getting an appropriate vessel to search the area to confirm that lead.
"But I just want to stress that by doing that, we are distracting ourselves from the main search.
"If we went there and the result from the search was negative, who is going to be responsible for that loss of time? Having more vessels out there (Bay of Bengal) will affect the search in the (current) area," he added.
Mr Hishammuddin, who is also defence minister, said the journey to locate MH370 was challenging, adding however, all international teams were determined to continue and focus with the new phase of search.
On the Bluefin-21 operation, Mr Houston said the underwater autonomous vehicle's (UAV) work, which was in response to transmission that was picked up from the deep (ocean) some weeks ago, was the most promising lead they had, at that time.
"They (transmission) were in the search area defined by the international team and they were under the seventh ping arch line. When we get the transmission from the deep (ocean), it was obvious that we had to go down and have a look.
"We send the Bluefin down in that area. Thus far, it has found nothing and we have covered 500 square kilometres to date. That's just the way it is," he added.
He was still hopeful that the Bluefin - working from now till the end of the month - might find something.
"I must say that the chances of finding it (MH370), I think the probability is lower than it was when we started the search," he said.
Flight MH370, with 239 people on board left the KL International Airport at 12.41am on March 8 and disappeared from radar screens about an hour later, while over the South China Sea. It was scheduled to arrive in Beijing at 6.30am on the same day.
Seventeen days after its disappearance, the flight path of MH370 was found to have ended in the southern Indian Ocean.