The search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be widened another 23,000 square miles in the Indian Ocean if it is not found by May, Malaysian officials revealed on Thursday, but noted it may take another year to complete.
"If the aircraft is not found within the 60,000 square kilometers, we have collectively decided to extend the search to another 60,000 square kilometers within the highest probability area," Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said, stressing that Malaysia, Australia and China are "committed to the search."
Over a year after it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, there has been so sign of the Boeing 777 in the Southern Indian Ocean despite the massive search. In January, Malaysia's government formally declared the plane's disappearance an accident and said all those on board were likely dead
While the exact nature of the plane's disappearance remains unknown, investigators using satellite data discovered that the aircraft made a series of turns and headed in a completely opposite direction from where it was going before crashing into the Indian Ocean.
Thus far, 61 percent of the 23,000-square-mile search area has been scoured off Australia's west coast, and the remaining 39 percent would have been searched by the end of May.
"We are confident we are searching in the right area," Australian Deputy Prime Minister and transport minister Warren Truss said at the news conference, alongside Liow. "We are confident we have the best search equipment ... if the plane is in the area we will find it."
He said Malaysia and Australia will continue to fund the cost of the next phase of the search, which is estimated to cost $39 million.The first phase, which was also funded by the two countries, cost a staggering $93.6 million.
"Australia and Malaysia have been sharing the cost and we will continue to do that," he said. "We are confident we will be able to fund whatever is necessary."
The two ministers said they expect the second phase to take the rest of this year, but noted it will likely be stalled due to treacherous underwater conditions.
China's transport minister Yang Chuantang also said China may contribute vessels and other assets in the next search phase.
"We will marshal some physical assets including vessels to participate in the search," he said. "We will not waver in our commitment to continue the search until we find the plane and resolve the mystery."
The disappearance of Flight MH370 and lack of evidence has led to numerous conspiracy theories, including ideas that the missing plane was shot down by American armed forces or hijacked by terrorists and landed.
However, independent investigator Jeff Wise has said that theories are "unrooted madness."
Meanwhile, the families of those missing, struggling to find closure, are not convinced that the plane will be found on the bottom of the ocean.
"The reality is that we really do not have any proof at all of what happened to this airplane," said Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of Phillip Wood, a Texas man who was on the plane.
"We don't have proof that it crashed in the water at all. There's been not a trace - not a tiny, tiny bit of evidence that it's crashed in the water."
Greg Feith, a former investigator for the NTSB, told NBC he believes the plane can still be found--but it may take several more years.
"It could be an effort like the Titanic, where it could be years, not months," he said.