Flight MH370 crashed in Indian Ocean, no survivors
AIMEE GULLIVER AND LINDSAY MURDOCH IN KUALA LUMPUR
The devastated relatives of passengers on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 must assume the plane is "lost" and the flight crashed in the Indian Ocean, the Malaysian prime minister says.
The families were called to meetings this morning to be told the fate of flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people, including two New Zealanders, aboard the flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.
Those who could not attend received a text message or phone call from the airline confirming the terrible news.
New satellite analysis showed MH370 flew along the southern flight corridor identified by searchers and its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth, representatives of the British Air Investigation Branch had told Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
"This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites," Najib said today.
"It is, therefore, with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."
Families have been booked on chartered flights to Perth.
Najib said in a first, "pings" sent out by the plane had been pieced together to shed more light on its flight path.
According to this data, provided to UK officials by London-based satellite company Inmarsat, the plane flew for more than seven hours after it had turned back from its scheduled flight path over the South China Sea.
Officials said it was likely the plane ran out fuel before crashing. It is not known whether the pilots were still in control during the long flight into the Indian Ocean.
In Beijing, where relatives of the missing had gathered at a hotel to hear the latest update, screams could be heard as the news was delivered. A steady stream of paramedics brought in stretchers.
Soon after, family members left the room wailing, with some collapsing on the floor and refusing to get up. One man threw himself on to an escalator and refused to move.
One elderly woman burst out of the room wailing, crying out for her son, her daughter-in-law and her grandchild who were onboard the plane.
"My whole family is gone," she screamed, as loved ones and police struggled to restrain her.
A woman collapsed and fell on her knees, crying: "My son! My son!".
"I don't want to get up. I don't want to go home. I don't want to go anywhere," she said.
One man with a shaved head and wearing a blue and white striped top threw himself down an escalator, and had to be helped up onto his feet by reporters and police.
Amid the outpouring of grief was a potent sense of anger and disbelief. For more than a fortnight, families had clung onto hope in the face of a bungling investigation which encompassed stolen passports, terrorist plots, hijacking theories, malevolent pilots, and satellite data which suggested the plane could have flown for hours in two completely different directions.
In a separate statement, Malaysia Airlines said its "prayers go out to all the loved ones... at this enormously painful time".
"We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain," the statement said.
The airline said it hoped the continued search would provide more answers.
Meanwhile, China's foreign ministry said it was demanding the release of all the information held by the Malaysian government following the announcement. It wanted to know how it had reached such a "conclusion".
New Zealand would continue its part in the southern Indian Ocean search, Prime Minister John Key said this morning.
TEXT MESSAGE CAUSES CONFUSION
Even before the prime minister made his announcement, Malaysia Airlines sent a text message to passenger families, stating it "deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived".
The message was sent in English, merely compounding the confusion among Chinese families.
The airline later defended sending the text messages, saying all efforts were made to contact all families to inform them in person beforehand. Others were angered by the abrupt nature and brevity of Najib's statement, which deferred to a further press conference to be held today."I've been waiting half a month, and they just give us one sentence?" one woman said.
The Inmarsat analysis will allow the massive search area in the Indian Ocean, which can be as deep as 7000 metres, to be narrowed.
Searchers will now be able to calculate how far the plane could have flown with the fuel it had on board.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his country's parliament overnight night that a RAAF P-3 Orion aircraft had located two new objects at about 2.45pm local time on Monday.
Abbott said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) had advised him the Orion crew had seen a grey or green circular object as well as an orange rectangular object, both of which were separate to the objects spotted by a Chinese aircraft, in the Indian Ocean.
Abbott said he did not know if the objects were from the flight, but recovery efforts continued.
HMAS Success was on the scene and was trying to recover the objects, while a US navy P8 Poseidon aircraft, as well as a second Australian Orion and a Japanese Orion aircraft were on their way to the area.
The objects reported by the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 to AMSA earlier yesterday were seen floating in the southern Indian Ocean as the crew returned to Perth from the search area, according to official news agency Xinhua.
However, a US Poseidon was unable to find them again.
The Chinese Air Force flight was first Chinese air search since two of its military aircraft arrived in Perth on Saturday.
At the request of the Australian Air Force, one Australian pilot was on board the Chinese plane, Xinhua reported.
The focus of the multinational search shifted to the southern Indian Ocean last Thursday after Australia said satellite imagery identified suspicious debris that might be linked to the missing plane in waters some 2400km from Perth.
China and France released further satellite imagery over the weekend showing objects in the same region which could be linked to the missing flight.
WHAT WE KNOW
THE PLANE CRASHED: Najib said satellite data showed the flight "ended in the southern Indian Ocean," confirming that the Boeing 777 that disappeared more than two weeks ago went down in a remote corner of the ocean, "far from any possible landing sites."
ITS LAST POSITION: A British company calculated satellite data obtained from the remote area of the ocean, using analysis never before used in an aviation investigation of this kind, and pinpointed the last spot the flight was seen in the air was in the middle of the ocean west of Perth, Australia.
NO SURVIVORS: Najib left little doubt that all 239 crew and passengers had perished in the crash; the father of an aviation engineer on the flight said, "we accept the news of the tragedy. It is fate."
WHO AND HOW: Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next. Authorities are considering the possibilities including terrorism, sabotage, catastrophic mechanical failure or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.
WHAT'S FLOATING IN THE OCEAN: The prime minister didn't address whether investigators had confirmed floating objects in the ocean and images captured by several countries' search parties, including that of France and China, were debris from the plane.
- Fairfax and AP