The seabed search for the missing Malaysian airliner has been left to a single ship, with a Chinese vessel heading home to Shanghai, officials said on Wednesday.
A Dutch survey ship Fugro Equator will finish the search of the southern Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 alone after resupplying at the southwest Australian port of Fremantle, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which coordinates the search, said in a statement.
The Chinese ship Dong Hai Jiu 101 had finished searching the 120,000-square-kilometer (46,000-square-mile) expanse last weekend and was headed back to Fremantle to drop off equipment before returning to its home port of Shanghai, the statement said.
The Chinese ship in February joined three search vessels operated by the Dutch underwater survey company Fugro in the hunt for the Boeing 777 that authorities say crashed with 239 people aboard far off the southwest coast of Australia on March 8, 2014.
Fugro Equator is expected to finish the search by February, the statement said. The ship is using a highly maneuverable drone known as an autonomous underwater vehicle to get sonar images of difficult terrain.
A group of victims’ relatives traveled to the island nation of Madagascar off the southeast coast of Africa and this week offered locals possible financial rewards to search for debris from the plane.
A Malaysian official investigating the disappearance visited Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, to pick up debris that has already been found and will be analyzed to see if it came from the aircraft.
Confirmation that the plane crashed came last year when a wing part washed ashore on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. Authorities have offered no explanation of why the plane flew off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.