MH370 families visit Australia as end date for search approaches

Malaysia Airlines ground staff walk past Malaysia Airlines aircraft parked on the tarmac at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on June 20, 2016. Image copyright Getty Images

Relatives of passengers from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are in Australia to put pressure on the government as the end of the search approaches.

The Boeing 777 disappeared while flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board in March 2014.

Malaysia, China and Australia are searching a large area of the Southern Ocean, where the plane is believed to have gone down.

But without new evidence the search will be suspended later this year.

Grace Nathan, whose mother Anne Daisy was on board the plane, said the relatives "just want to know what efforts are being made so new credible information can be found for the search to go on".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Three further pieces of possible aircraft wreckage were found off the coast of Mozambique

She said the inconclusive investigation had made it difficult to find closure.

"I really have mixed emotions about the whole trip," Ms Nathan told Australia's ABC radio.

"I live in denial about what's happened."

Some relatives have also accused Malaysian authorities of ignoring possible new evidence washing up along the African coast.

Three pieces of aircraft debris were retrieved last month in the waters off Mozambique.

The largest piece of debris, a triangular piece of metal, red and white on one side - the colours of Malaysia Airlines - was discovered by a South African hotelier.

The debris will be sent to Malaysia for examination.

Missed clues - Richard Westcott, BBC Transport Correspondent

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Media captionIn March, Grace Nathan told the BBC that relatives desperately want the search to go on until the plane is found

Many relatives of those on board MH370 tell me they are frustrated at the way the search is being handled.

They fear that hundreds, maybe thousands of plane parts and personal belongings are sitting, untouched, on remote beaches across the Indian ocean.

Yet there's no plan to go and find them.

They argue that locals in these hard-to-reach areas, fishermen for example, could be mobilised to look for clues. All you'd have to do is get the word out, advise them what to search for and what to do if they find anything.

As things stand just one man, an unpaid American enthusiast called Blaine Gibson, is combing beaches for debris.

It's unlikely that small parts will reveal the fate of the flight, but they may offer clues. And as the giant sea search is wound down later this year, the families tell me that looking on beaches may be the only way to get answers and recover precious belongings from the people they love.

Their biggest fear is that the search will be dropped, the world will move on, and they'll be left in limbo wondering what happened.

Read more: 'Why are they not investigating?'

One man's search for answers

MH370 'must not go into oblivion'

Eight next of kin from several countries arrived in Perth on Tuesday, on a self-funded trip.

They will meet representatives of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and will be shown a small fragment of recovered wreckage.

The ATSB is co-ordinating the ocean search but Malaysia is responsible for recovering any debris which washes up elsewhere.

A report by the Australian newspaper earlier this week suggested the relatives may lobby the Australian government to take over the investigation from Malaysia.

Ms Nathan said the families had been frustrated by what they perceive to be the indifference of Malaysian authorities.

"They never want to speak to us. The Malaysian mainstream media have been told to stay away from us," she said.

The relatives also hope to clarify whether recent discoveries of debris on the African coast counts as credible new evidence, and whether the A$170m (£97m; $130m) search could be continued in a more cost effective way.

More than 110,000 sq km (68,000 sq miles) of sea floor have been searched so far. The full 120,000 sq km search is expected to be completed by around December.

But one of the Chinese ships has spent more time more time anchored off Western Australia than searching at sea.

The Don Hai Jiu has lost its sonar imaging "tow fish" and suffered an injured crewman since it got involved in the search six months ago.

The vessel has had its tow fish in the water for fewer than 30 days, say Australia officials.

Where some of the confirmed or suspected MH370 debris was found

1. A section of wing called a flaperon, found on Reunion Island in July 2015 - confirmed as debris in September 2015

2. Horizontal stabilizer from tail section, found between Mozambique and Madagascar in December 2015

3. Stabilizer panel with "No Step" stencil, found in Mozambique in February 2016

4. Engine cowling bearing Rolls-Royce logo, found in March 2016 in Mossel Bay, South Africa

Image copyright ATSB

5. Fragment of interior door panel found in Rodrigues Island, Mauritius in March 2016

Image copyright Blaine Alan Gibson

6. Fragments including what appears to be a seat frame, a coat hook and other panels found on Nosy Boraha island in north-east Madagascar.

Image copyright Blaine Alan Gibson
Image caption One of the pieces resembled a panel from a seat and includes a piece of equipment saying "coat hook"

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