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Search for Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 abandoned

After nearly three years, the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has ended. Crews from Australia, Malaysia and China completed their deep-sea search in the Indian Ocean without finding a trace of the plane.

The Joint Agency Coordination Center in Australia, which has helped lead the hunt, confirmed on Tuesday that the search of the missing passenger plane had officially been stopped.

"Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting-edge technology, as well as modeling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft," the agency said in a statement. "Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended."

Crews swept the 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) search zone for nearly three years for the missing jetliner at a cost of $160 million (150 million euros).

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, with 239 people on board, vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 2014.

End of the road?

Malaysia, China and Australia, which carried out the joint search had previously agreed to suspend their operation if, once the full search area had been checked, there was no sign of the plane or new evidence.

Three large pieces of the plane have washed up on Mauritius, Reunion and a small island off the cost of Tanzania over the past two years. Smaller fragments, found on east African beaches, are also suspected to have come from the jet.

But the Australian and Malaysian governments have rejected a recommendation to search an area directly north of the current search area, saying that the analysis carried out by experts wasn't precise enough to justify the cost.

Australien Untersuchung von Wrackteilen eines Flugzeugs (Reuters/Australian Transport Safety Bureau)

Pieces of the plane have been found on islands in the Indian Ocean

Relatives 'dismayed'

In response to Tuesday's halt, a support group for the relatives of those on board called Voice 370 insisted the new area be searched.

"In our view, extending the search to the new area defined by the experts is an inescapable duty owed to the flying public in the interest of aviation safety," Voice 370 said in a statement.

"Commercial planes cannot just be allowed to disappear without a trace."

Watch video 02:14

Two years after MH370, questions remain

mm/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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