January 6, 2017 / 10:35 AM / 7 months ago

Malaysia says search for missing MH370 to end in two weeks

A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which went missing in 2014 reacts during a protest outside the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing, July 29, 2016. The hat reads "Pray for MH370"Thomas Peter

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia said on Friday the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will end in two weeks after the search is completed of a 120,000 square kilometer (9,650 sq mile) area where experts thought it went down.

Investigators recommended last month that the search be extended by 25,000 sq km to an area further north in the Indian Ocean, after conceding for the first time they were probably looking in the wrong place. [nL4N1EF02J]

But Malaysia's transport minister, Liow Tiong Lai, told reporters the search of the 120,000 sq km area would be completed but the hunt would then end in the absence of any "credible clue" suggesting it be extended.

The latest report by the search coordinator, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, was due to be completed in a week or two, he said.

"The search mission will end soon and after that," Liow was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.

The report would be made available online, he said, adding:

"Any decision based on the report will be done later."

Flight MH370 disappeared in March 2014 with 239 passengers and crew on board, most of them Chinese, en route to Beijing from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Its whereabouts have become one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.

Families of many of those on board have called for the search to continue and to be extended to other areas.

The three countries involved in the search - Malaysia, Australia and China - would meet before Jan. 28 to decide on the next course of action, Liow said.

Australia last month also rejected recommendations to extend the search, citing a lack of "credible evidence".

A total of 33 pieces of wreckage suspected to be from the plane have been found, including parts of wings and a tail, on the shores of Mauritius, the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Robert Birsel

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