Relatives of passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 react after watching a news broadcast from Kuala Lumpur, at hotel in Beijing, China. Image Credit: EPA

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines on Monday told relatives of the 239 people on board a missing passenger jet that "we have to assume" the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean, but vowed the search for the jet would continue.

"Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," the airline said in a statement to the families, citing new analysis of satellite data.

"On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones (of those on board) at this enormously painful time," the statement continued.

"We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain. We will continue to provide assistance and support to you."

The airline vowed in its statement that the ongoing search for the plane and an intensive investigation into its fate "will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain".

The statement echoed the words of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who - also citing satellite data - told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur late Monday: "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."

MH370 vanished without warning on March 8 while flying over the South China Sea en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.

Malaysia believes the plane was deliberately diverted by someone on board. But the absence of firm evidence has fuelled intense speculation and conspiracy theories, and tormented the families of the missing for 16 days.

The search swung deep into the Indian Ocean last week after initial satellite images depicted large floating objects there, and further sightings of possible debris in the area energised the massive, multinational operation.

It has not yet been confirmed that the debris spotted in the area is from MH370, and officials have voiced caution. It is also still unclear why the plane ended up so far off course over the southern Indian Ocean.

MH370: Tears and cries as all hopes dashed

BEIJING: Tears and cries of inconsolable pain and loss echoed from a Beijing hotel ballroom on Monday as the relatives of MH370 passengers learned the news: their loved ones were dead.

Some clung on to other family members for crumbs of comfort as they left the room where they were told the Malaysia Airlines flight had ended, incontestably, in the remote southern Indian Ocean.

Paramedics carrying stretchers rushed into the ballroom at the Lido hotel in Beijing, where relatives of many of the 153 Chinese passengers on board the aircraft had been waiting for more than two weeks.

Even the possibility of a hijack had meant there was still a chance their loved ones were still alive.

After the announcement, they realised there was no hope for survival. There was no hope at all.

Some burst out the room crying uncontrollably, being held by other family members, while others wiped tears from their eyes as left the briefing.

Others simply covered their heads, hiding their emotions.
Inside, the wails of the bereaved echoed.

Relatives at the hotel appeared in no mood to speak, one who talked to AFP by telephone said: "We know we have no hope left now."

'No survivors' Malaysia Airlines tells families

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines on Monday reportedly told relatives of the 239 people on board a missing passenger jet that it believes the plane went down in the Indian Ocean with no survivors.

"Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived," it said in a text message to relatives, the BBC reported.

MH370: Passengers' relatives briefed

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian authorities are briefing families of passengers of a jetliner missing for more than two weeks before an announcement due by Prime Minister Najib Razak just minutes away, a government official said.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board on March 8.
No confirmed sighting of the plane has been made since.

Malaysian PM to brief press on missing plane 

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Monday he would hold a press conference at 10:00 pm (1400 GMT), after authorities indicated they were close to retrieving suspected debris from missing flight MH370.

"I will be making a statement on #MH370 at 10pm Malaysian tonight," Najib said on his Twitter feed.

Chinese search plane finds 'suspicious objects'

Beijing: Chinese aircrew have spotted "suspicious objects" in the southern Indian Ocean in the search for vanished Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

It gave no further details, but an earlier Xinhua report said a Chinese military plane set off early on Monday from the western Australian city of Perth to seek "suspicious debris" floating in the remote waters captured by satellite imagery.

Sightings boost search for missing Malaysia jet

PERTH, Australia: The sighting of a wooden pallet and other debris that may be linked to a Malaysian passenger jet raised hopes Sunday of a breakthrough in the international search for the missing plane.

The sense that the hunt was finally on the right track after more than two weeks of false leads and dead ends was reinforced by new French satellite data indicating floating objects in the southern search area.

Australian officials said the pallet, along with belts or straps, was spotted Saturday in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean that has become the focus of the search - around 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth.

"It's still too early to be definite," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters during a visit to Papua New Guinea.

"But obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope - no more than hope, no more than hope - that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft."

Australian and Chinese satellite images have picked up large objects floating in the inhospitable region, and Malaysia's transport ministry said Sunday that France had provided similar data "in the vicinity of the southern corridor".

The Malaysian statement gave no details of the French satellite data.
But France's foreign ministry said it came in the form of satellite-generated radar echoes, which contains information about the location and distance of the object which bounces a signal back.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) confirmed that the pallet and other debris marked the "first visual sighting" since Australian, New Zealand and US spotter planes began scouring the area on Thursday.

Wooden pallets are quite common in aircraft and ship cargo holds.
The objects were spotted by observers on one of the civilian aircraft taking part in the search.

An air force P3 Orion aircraft with specialist electro-optic observation equipment was diverted to the same location, but only reported sighting clumps of seaweed.
"That's the nature of it," AMSA aircraft operations coordinator Mike Barton said.

"You only have to be off by a few hundred metres in a fast-travelling aircraft."

Sunday's search involving four military and four civilian aircraft plus an Australian warship ended with "no sightings of significance" but would resume Monday, AMSA said.

Sunday's search covered 59,000 square km (23,600 sq miles).

MH370: French take new images

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: New French satellite images show possible debris from a missing Malaysian airliner deep in the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysia said on Sunday, adding to growing signs that the plane may have gone down in remote seas off Australia.

The latest lead comes as the international search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 entered its third week, with still no confirmed trace of the Boeing 777 that vanished with 239 people on board.

"This morning, Malaysia received new satellite images from the French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor," the Malaysian Transport Ministry said in a statement. "Malaysia immediately relayed these images to the Australian rescue co-ordination centre." The statement gave no details as to whether the objects were in the same vicinity as the other possible finds in a vast swathe of some of the most inhospitable sea territory on Earth.

First visual sighting

The first visual sighting of objects that might be linked to the plane boosted search operations on Sunday.

Australian officials said a wooden cargo pallet, along with belts or straps, was spotted Saturday in a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean that has become the focus of an intense international search in recent days.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday there was "increasing hope" of finding the plane.

A graphic provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), shows the approximate position of the objects seen floating in a Chinese satellite image in the southern Indian Ocean. (Picture: AP)

"It's still too early to be definite," Abbott told reporters during a visit to Papua New Guinea.

"But obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope - no more than hope, no more than hope - that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft."

Satellite image

China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence said on its website that a Chinese satellite took an image of an object 22 metres (72 feet) by 13 metres (43 feet) around noon Tuesday. The image location was about 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of where an Australian satellite viewed two objects two days earlier. The larger object was about as long as the one the Chinese satellite detected.

"The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received a satellite image of a floating object in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify," Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters Saturday said.

The latest image is another clue in a baffling search for Flight 370, which went missing March 8 shortly after leaving Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing with 239 people on board.

After about a week of confusion, authorities said pings sent by the Boeing 777 for several hours after it disappeared from air traffic control screens indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia up to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches in an arch toward Antarctica.
The discovery of the two objects by the Australian satellite led several countries to send planes and ships to the area, about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Australia. One of the objects spotted in the earlier satellite imagery was described as 24 meters (almost 80 feet) in length and the other was 5 meters (15 feet). But three days of searching have produced nothing.

Two military planes from China arrived Saturday in Perth to join Australian, New Zealand and U.S. aircraft in the search. Japanese planes will arrive Sunday and ships were in the area or on their way.
The flights Saturday in relatively good weather also did not yield any results, and it was not immediately known if the newly released Chinese satellite image would change the search area on Sunday.
Even if both satellites detected the same object, it may be unrelated to the plane. One possibility is that it could have fallen off a cargo vessel.

Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said the currents in the area typically move at about one meter (yard) per second although can sometimes move faster.
Based on the typical speed, a current could theoretically move a floating object about 173 kilometers (107 miles) in two days.

Warren Truss, Australia's acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is abroad, said before the new satellite data was announced that a complete search could take a long time.

"It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we're absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile - and that day is not in sight," he said.

"If there's something there to be found, I'm confident that this search effort will locate it," Truss said from the base near Perth that is serving as a staging area for search aircraft.

Aircraft involved in the search include two ultra-long-range commercial jets and four P3 Orions, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.
But because the search area is a four-hour flight from land, the Orions can search for about only two hours before they must fly back. The commercial jets can stay for five hours before heading back to the base.

Two merchant ships were in the area, and the HMAS Success, a navy supply ship, had also joined the search.

The Chinese planes that arrived in Perth on Saturday were expected to begin searching on Sunday. A small flotilla of ships from China will also join the hunt, along with a refueling vessel that will allow ships to stay in the search area for a long time, Truss said.

MH370: China satellites spot possible debris

Kuala Lumpur: Chinese satellites have spotted objects floating in the southern search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that could be debris and has sent ships to investigate, Malaysia said on Saturday.

"Chinese ships have been dispatched to the area. Beijing is expected to make an announcement in a few hours," Malaysian Defence Minister and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussain told reporters.

One of the objects was very large, measuring 22.5 metres (74 feet) by 13 metres (42 feet), the ministry said in a statement.

Long haul

Officials are bracing for the "long haul" as searches by more than two dozen countries turn up little but frustration and fresh questions about Flight MH370 which vanished on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

Six aircraft and two merchant ships are now scouring an area of the remote southern Indian Ocean where suspected debris was spotted by satellite earlier this week.

Australia, which announced the potential find and is coordinating the rescue, has cautioned the objects might be a lost shipping container or other debris.

"Even though this is not a definite lead, it is probably more solid than any other lead around the world and that is why so much effort and interest is being put into this search," acting Australian Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters at a Perth airforce base.

China, Japan and India are sending more planes and Australian and Chinese navy vessels are also steaming towards the zone, more than 2,000km (1,200 miles) southwest of Perth.

Weather conditions are good, with 10 km (6 miles) of visibility, according to search officials - a crucial boost for a search that is relying more on human eyes than the technical wizardry of the most advanced aircraft in the world.

"While these aircraft are equipped with very advanced technology, much of this search is actually visual," said Truss, who also warned that the objects detected by satellites may now be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

"It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we are absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile, and that day is not in sight," he said.

International effort

As more countries prepared to join the international effort to locate the plane over the weekend, Australia’s deputy prime minister warned that the debris, which was spotted by a satellite five days ago, may have sunk or drifted for hundreds of kilometres.

The Boeing 777 disappeared off the coast of Malaysia almost two weeks ago with 239 people 153 of them Chinese on board, sparking a multinational search encompassing millions of square kilometres, with the focus now on a 23,000 square kilometre zone in the Indian Ocean.

Friday’s sweep of the area, located about 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometres) south-west of Perth, involved three Australian P-3 Orion and a US navy P-8 Poseidon (both types of maritime surveillance aeroplane), a commercial jet and a Norwegian merchant ship.

In a statement released on Friday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the search had ended for the day without any sightings.

It added that the focus would remain on “locating any survivors on board the flight and searching for possible objects that could be connected to the missing aircraft or discounting them”. The satellite images gave no indication that the objects belong to the missing aircraft.

“Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating,” Australia’s deputy prime minister, Warren Truss, told reporters in Perth.

“It may have slipped to the bottom. It’s also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometres.”

The Malaysian defence minister, Hishammuddin Hussain, confirmed there had been no new developments, in another blow to anxious relatives who have been critical of Malaysian authorities for delays in releasing information.

“This is going to be a long haul,” he told reporters. “But the focus has always been to find the aeroplane, and the focus is to reduce the area of search and possible rescue.”

On Friday a delegation of Malaysian government and military officials flew to Beijing to meet relatives, who berated them for the way the search has been conducted.

“We wanted to see you in the first 24 and 48 hours, so that we wouldn’t have had to bear the suffering of the last 13 days,” shouted one relative. “The plane turned around, but you denied this, and because of this you have wasted so much time.”

On Friday it emerged that, according to the MH370 cargo manifest, the plane was carrying lithium-ion batteries. These are categorised as “dangerous cargo” as they can be unstable at altitude and can catch fire if not transported correctly.

An accidental fire caused by cargo is just one of several theories behind the plane’s disappearance after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing just after midnight on March 8.

Investigators suspect that the plane was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres from its scheduled path. They have given more credence to the possibility that the aircraft was hijacked or sabotaged, but have not ruled out technical problems.

Sources at the Ministry of Defence in London confirmed reports that a survey ship, HMS Echo, had been deployed to aid the search effort in the southern Indian Ocean. In addition, China and Japan are to send planes to the area over the weekend.

“It’s about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the Earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it,” the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, told reporters in Papua New Guinea, where he is on a visit.

“Now it could just be a container that’s fallen off a ship. We just don’t know, but we owe it to the families, and the friends and the loved ones to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle.”

Australia dispatched aircraft to the area earlier this week after satellite images showed two floating objects that officials hoped would provide the first physical clue as to the plane’s fate since it disappeared off Malaysia’s coast less than an hour into its flight.

In an incident that has quickly turned into the biggest mystery in commercial aviation history, attempts to locate the aircraft have been hampered by the sheer scale of the search area and the complexity of the operation, which now involves more than 20 countries.

Using data from military radar and satellites, officials believe MH370’s transponder was deliberately switched off as it crossed the Gulf of Thailand. The aircraft then made a sharp turn west, recrossing the Malay Peninsula before settling into an established route towards India.

Electronic pings picked up by commercial satellites suggest the plane flew on for at least another six hours.

The international effort to locate the plane is expected to expand over the weekend. India said it was sending two aircraft, a Poseidon P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft and a C-130 Hercules transporter, to the area.

China’s Antarctic research icebreaker, Snow Dragon, will set off from Perth to join the operation, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported maritime authorities as saying. As many as five more Chinese ships were en route to the search zone from across the Indian Ocean, Xinhua said.

India is also sending another P-8I and four warships to the Andaman Sea, where the plane was last seen on military radar on March 8 even though the area has already been swept.