ANTANANARIVO Relatives of some passengers aboard a Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing more than two years ago and has never been found said on Saturday they hoped to persuade governments to expand the search area along the east African coast.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, sparking a search in the southern Indian Ocean that entered its 1,000th day on Saturday.
"We want to speak to as many people as we can. We want to especially speak to NGOs, to the missionaries, to the churches who have outreach programmes," said Grace Subathirai Nathan, a spokeswoman for the Members of Voice 370, an MH370 next-of-kin support group, after arriving in Madagascar.
"We can talk to people who work as fishermen, people who live on the coastline. We hope that we can raise awareness, teach them how to identify debris, how to collect debris, what to do with it when they find it," said Nathan.
The group hopes the trip will help spur the Malaysian, Chinese and Australian governments to collect debris along the continental coast where parts from the aircraft had been found.
Nathan, whose mother was on the plane, was among four Malaysians, two Chinese nationals and a Frenchman who left for Madagascar on Saturday to hunt for debris and raise awareness of the plane among local communities and organisations.
Three pieces of debris found on the beaches of Mauritius, Tanzania and the French island of Reunion, have been confirmed to be from MH370. Investigators are examining several other pieces found in Mozambique and South Africa.
The search is expected to be suspended by the end of the year, when an Australian-led team completes its scouring of a 120,000-sq-km target area.
"We also need to know what happened to this plane and what happened to the people that we love," Nathan told journalists at the airport near Madagascar's capital of Antananarivo.
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Gareth Jones)