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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Australia holds hope MH370 will be found as last search ends

The four-year mission has been the largest in aviation history 

A girl has her face painted during the Day of Remembrance for MH370 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. New Transport Minister Anthony Loke says the search for missing Malaysia Airline Flight 370 ends next Tuesday after a 90-day period under a "no cure no fee" agreement with a private US firm. Vincent Thian / AP
A girl has her face painted during the Day of Remembrance for MH370 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. New Transport Minister Anthony Loke says the search for missing Malaysia Airline Flight 370 ends next Tuesday after a 90-day period under a "no cure no fee" agreement with a private US firm. Vincent Thian / AP

Australia said it held out hope that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 would one day be found as the last search of the seabed in the remote Indian Ocean where it was believed to have been lost was scheduled to end on Tuesday.

Malaysia said last week the search by the Texas company Ocean Infinity would end on Tuesday after two extensions of the original 90-day time limit.

Australian Transport Minister Michael McCormack said the four-year search had been the largest in aviation history and tested the limits of technology and the capacity of experts and people at sea.

"Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the 239 people on board MH370," Mr McCormack's office said. "We will always remain hopeful that one day the aircraft will be located."

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Malaysia signed a "no cure, no fee" deal with Ocean Infinity in January to resume the hunt for the plane, a year after the official search in the southern Indian Ocean by Australia, Malaysia and China was called off. No other search is scheduled.

Australia, Malaysia and China agreed in 2016 that an official search would only resume if the three countries had credible evidence that identified a specific location for the wreckage.

Malaysia said last week an Ocean Infinity ship Seabed Contractor operating underwater sonar drones had searched more than 96,000 square kilometres of sea. The search area deemed by experts to be the most likely crash site was only 25,000 sq km, about the size of Vermont.

Ocean Infinity did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Boeing 777 vanished on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. The original search focused on the South China Sea before analysis revealed the plane had made an unexpected turn west and then south.

Australia co-ordinated an official search on Malaysia's behalf that scoured 120,000 sq km and cost $150 million (Dh550.9 million) before it ended last year.

Danica Weeks, an Australian resident who lost her husband on Flight 370, urged Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to call on the new Malaysian government to be more transparent about what it knew about the mysterious disappearance.

"There've been so many theories and rumours and ... we don't know what is true and what isn't," Ms Weeks told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"I want Julie Bishop to say to the Malaysian counterparts now: what do you have? Where is the investigation at?" she said.

Peter Foley, the director of the official seabed hunt that ended last year, told an Australian Senate committee hearing last week that he still hoped that Ocean Infinity would be successful.

"If they're not, of course, that would be a great sadness for all of us," Mr Foley said.