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'We still need answers'

Srinivas Mazumdaru
January 17, 2017

In a DW interview, K.S. Narendran, whose wife was aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane MH370, expresses his dismay at the abandonment of the search for the missing aircraft. He says the families still need answers.

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Gedenkfeier Verschwinden Flug MH370
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Ismail

Nearly three years after the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the massive search operation to relocate the missing aircraft was called off on Tuesday, leaving unsolved the mystery of what happened to the plane.

The search for MH370, which had been a joint operation by the governments of Australia, Malaysia and China, was carried out on an unprecedented scale and in one of the world's remotest locations.

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), but they were unable to find a trace of the plane.

Nevertheless, relatives of the passengers onboard the vanished aircraft have criticized the decision to suspend the search operation, with campaign group Voice370 calling on authorities to prolong the hunt.

In a DW interview, 53-year-old K.S. Narendran, whose wife Chandrika Sharma was aboard the missing flight, says he is very disappointed with the suspension of the search efforts.  Still, he remains optimistic that governments worldwide, civil society and the aviation industry would care more about safety and security of air travel and press on the governments to continue the search.

DW: It's been announced that after nearly three years the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has ended. How do you react to it?

K.S. Narendran: We are very disappointed that the hunt for the aircraft has ended. We did not expect that the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China would call off the search because there were specific recommendations to extend it to another 25,000 square kilometers. These were the recommendations from the experts that the officials had put together. So it is surprising and at the same time very unfortunate. It must have also come as a blow to all those who have worked tirelessly to find answers, and find the plane.

What are your demands from the governments that were involved in the search?

Our demands have been very straightforward and reasonable. We expect from the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China, which were involved in the search for MH370, to stay the course, find the missing aircraft and the passengers, so that we have the answers about the incident. Where did the plane disappear? Why did it disappear? And what actually happened to the aircraft? These questions are very important not only to us but also to those who want air travel to be safer for everyone.

The officials were conducting underwater search, but I think it should not have been restricted to that only. Potential debris of the plane was found in the western Indian Ocean few months ago. That suggested that the search should be expanded to the islands and shores on the western side of the Indian Ocean also.

Are you hopeful that Australia, China and Malaysia would join hands and do what is needed to complete the search?

I am hopeful. I also accept that we don't have any other choice but to be optimistic. Another reason for my optimism is that not just families but people at large want answers and are not likely to let this matter fade away. I believe the aviation industry, too, will eventually speak up about the threats to airline and flight safety if the search is given up without satisfactory answers.

How do you assess the response of Malaysia Airlines since MH370 went missing?

My impression has been that Malaysia Airlines neither had the willingness nor the capability to steer the whole investigation. It hasn't shown the urgency that we liked to see in pursuing the leads, for example the debris in Madagascar. More than once, it has attempted to bring the curtains down on the entire search. And if not for the resounding protests from the families and the public, the airline would have succeeded in this endeavor too. 

K.S. Narendran is a Chennai-based development consultant whose wife Chandrika Sharma was aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

The interview was conducted by Srinivas Mazumdaru.