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'Back to drawing board' if underwater search does not find MH370

Almost one year since flight MH370 disappeared, Malaysia's transport minister says his government remained committed to solving the mystery. However, if a deep-sea search turned up nothing, the next step was unclear.

Speaking to a small group of foreign reporters on Saturday, the eve of the first anniversary of the plane's disappearance, Liow Tiong Lai said he was cautiously optimistic the Boeing 777 was in the area of the southern Indian Ocean currently being searched.

"By the end of May, if we still can't find the plane, then we will have to go back to the drawing board," he said, adding "We rely on the expert group… to come up with the plan. I am cautiously optimistic it should be in this area.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 inexplicably diverted from its Kuala Lumpur to Beijing route and vanished, shortly after it took off on March 8, 2014. No physical trace of the plane has since been found.

The current search

, led by Australia, involves four ships scouring a priority zone of some 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) of the southern Indian Ocean. About 40 percent of that zone has been covered already.

One year on

In late January, Malaysia's government

officially declared the plane's disappearance an accident

and said all on board were presumed dead. That declaration paved the way for victims' relatives to obtain compensation. However, several next of kin of the 239 passengers and crew have

strongly criticized Malaysia's response

to the crisis.

Reflecting on the one-year anniversary, Liow Tiong Lai, who took up the transport minister post three months after the disappearance, denied accusations that Malaysia's government and national airline

hadn't been transparent.

"I have told the next of kin: they are seeking for answers? I also am seeking for answers. I am committed to look for the answers for them."

According to Liow, an international team investigating the plane's disappearance was expected to present an interim report to the Malaysian government, before releasing it publically.

se/ (AP, AFP)

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