[Exclusive] Plan of action when MH370 is found

March 8, 2018 @ 8:41AM

KUALA LUMPUR: AS the international search team braves the treacherous winter and stormy weather in the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysian officials back home are putting their heads together to prepare a recovery plan for when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is found.

Led by the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia chairman (CAAM) Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the MH370 Response Team is finalising an action plan that would be put in motion, at a moment’s notice, the minute a positive identification of the wreckage, or its black boxes, is established.

“Ocean Infinity’s mission is to locate MH370 and map out the debris field within 90 days.

“They also have to recover the flight recorders and parts of the aircraft that investigators deem crucial to the investigation, within reason.

“Once the wreckage is found, we have to verify that it is MH370 and an announcement will be made. But, it doesn't stop there,” he said.

Azharuddin said those who could be involved in the recovery plan had been roped in for discussions with, among others, the Malaysian International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Annex 13 Safety Investigator Team for MH370, the police, and Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team.

“We are also talking to Australia, should we need their cooperation,” he said, adding that the number of personnel and assets involved, as well as the custody of the recovered wreckage, were among issues discussed in meetings that had been held in the past, with the latest being about two weeks ago.

“Our task is to plan — who is responsible for what, how many people are going to be mobilised, and what type of equipment we need.

“The recovery of the wreckage will be done by the response team, led by Malaysia,” he added.

The team, which was formed following the suspension of the underwater search for the jetliner on Jan 17 last year, comprises officers from the Transport, Foreign and Communication and Multimedia ministries, as well as the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

On the “no cure, no fee” search by Ocean Infinity, Azharuddin said the last meeting with the company was about two weeks ago to discuss the search in the secondary area.

He said aside from payment arrangement, the team’s vast experience and expertise in deep-sea mapping made it the most logical choice.

“Their vessel is a very modern ship and the on-board facilities are fantastic as compared with what we had before.

“Nobody has done any underwater survey or exploration using this kind of equipment,” he said.

The Malaysian DVI team, which was mobilised to identify the remains of those who died in the MH17 tragedy, is ready to lend its expertise if MH370 is found.

Team leader Datuk Dr Mohd Shah Mahmood said the team had been informed by Azharuddin that its expertise might be needed in identifying the remains of those on board the jetliner.

“We have been briefed on the planning and we were told to get ready as they will call us when we are needed,” he told the New Straits Times.

“We are not sure whether the remains would be brought back to Malaysia. The processing of the remains may be carried out in Australia.

“There is no definite decision yet on this, but we were told to get ready because as soon as they find the plane, they will finalise the recovery plan.

“We have experts in pathology who may be handling the autopsy, dental, fingerprint and DNA checks... we have our DNA lab here in Malaysia, but if we do it in Australia, we may use theirs,” Dr Shah said.

Aside from being dispatched to the Netherlands for the MH17 tragedy, the team was also involved in the processing of the remains of scores of human trafficking victims found in the hills of Wang Kelian.

Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia chairman Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (third from right) with Lieutenant Commander Azmi Rosedee (right) and Lieutenant Abdul Halim Ahmad Nordin (second from left) on board the ‘Seabed Constructor’.
Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.
Datuk Dr Mohd Shah Mahmood.