Home » Latest World News » Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean

mh370-malaysiaKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that the missing Malaysia Airlines plane was lost in the southern Indian Ocean, effectively removing all hope that it might have survived the still unexplained diversion from its flight path more than two weeks ago.

In a news conference, Najib said new information from satellite data showed that the plane’s last location was “in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth,” a city on Australia’s west coast.

“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites,” Najib said solemnly. “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.”

He said the families of those on board have been informed of this “heartbreaking” news.

His comments came after observers on a Chinese search plane on Monday spotted some “suspicious objects” in the southern Indian Ocean — two large floating objects and many smaller white ones — as the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight entered its third week.

Separately, crew on an Australian plane were able to see two objects, one gray or green and circular and one an orange rectangle, in another section of the 42,500-square-mile stretch of the southern Indian Ocean where observers have tried for days to find some sign of the Boeing 777 that vanished March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board.

Until now, the sighting of possible plane debris has largely been confined to satellite images, making Monday’s visual sighting by human spotters aboard planes a potentially significant breakthrough for the massive search-and-rescue operation, one of the largest in aviation history.

According to a Malaysia Airlines flight manifest, Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur with 12 crew members on board, all Malaysians, and 227 passengers from 15 countries. Of the passengers, nearly two-thirds were from China. There were three American passengers on the plane, including an infant, and 38 Malaysians.

In his news conference Monday, Najib said new information on the fate of the aircraft came from Britain’s Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and the British Inmarsat satellite communications company, which previously had provided data indicating that Flight MH370 took either a northern or southern route after diverting from its flight path.

Najib said that after making further calculations and “using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort,” Inmarsat had essentially eliminated the northern route and “concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor.”

Even before his announcement, search efforts had been focusing on a vast, remote area of the southern Indian Ocean.

The mission has been daunting. On Monday, just as soon as objects were spotted by the Chinese, they disappeared again. A U.S. Navy plane sent to investigate the spot 1,353 miles southwest of Perth was unable to relocate the debris.

A Chinese ship is also en route to the spot where the debris was seen, according to state news agency Xinhua. The Chinese have also asked the Australians to send more planes to the area.

A separate Australian ship was dispatched to follow up on the other sighting.

It was unclear Monday whether any of the objects spotted by observers were the same as those picked up by various satellite images, including one from the Chinese over the weekend showing a grainy image of a “suspicious floating object” 74 feet long and 43 feet wide. Large shipping containers are also often found drifting in the same waters, a part of the world where strong currents constantly move objects around with changing speeds and directions. Those leading the search hope to get close enough to the items and dredge them out to inspect further.

Finding the debris field is critical for locating the missing aircraft’s cockpit recorders, which will emit tracking signals for 30 days. Since Flight MH370 was lost 16 days ago, time is running out to find the black box containing two recorders: one with the last two hours of audio from the cockpit and the other with detailed flight data.

On Monday, the U.S. Navy ordered a black box locator to be moved into the area being searched. The Navy’s technology can locate black boxes to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet. The Indian Ocean’s depth ranges between 3,770 feet and 23,000 feet.

After more than a week of dead ends spanning from Kyrgyzstan to the South China Sea, authorities have steadily zeroed in on a desolate area in the southern Indian Ocean. Five aircraft were scouring the area, with two more planes on the way Monday morning, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Monday’s search was meant to build on the most recent available satellite data — information provided by the French on Sunday. France on Monday also gave the Malaysians images taken by camera showing potential plane debris, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said at a news conference.

The object seen by a French satellite was 528 miles north of where planes and ships had been looking over the weekend, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said in an interview with ABC Radio, Australia’s national public broadcaster.

The French Foreign Ministry said radar echoes from a satellite had indicated the presence of debris in the ocean about 1,400 miles from Perth, but gave no direction or date.

“We still don’t know for certain that the aircraft is even in this area,” Truss said in the interview. “We are just clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts.”

To make the search even more difficult, the weather in this area of the ocean can also be extreme. There were fears recently that a cyclone that hit Christmas Island over the weekend would be headed toward the search parties. AMSA said Monday, though, that the search area should not be affected.

Mike Barton, the rescue coordination chief at the Australian maritime agency, said the biggest challenge was the search area’s “remoteness from anywhere.” That meant search planes were operating at the limits of their fuel supply, prolonging the search, he said.

Satellites have the advantage of passing directly over an object, “but actually determining what it is from an aircraft at a lot lower altitude, looking into the sun, with haze and all the rest of it, is proving difficult,” Barton said.

If planes can find any of the floating objects or any new ones of interest, the next step will be to get a ship to the area and fish them out of the water. “Until we find them and have a good look at them, it’s hard to say if they have anything to do with the aircraft,” Barton said at a news conference in Canberra, the capital.

Meanwhile, there is still the mystery of what caused the plane to divert from its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the first place.

The Malaysian government said Monday it had interviewed 100 people, including members of the pilots’ families, as part of its investigation.

So far, there has been no indication that the pilots deliberately sabotaged the flight. Malaysian officials on Sunday rejected recent U.S. media reports that the passenger jet had been pre-programmed to turn sharply westward before it vanished from radar. Those reports, citing unidentified U.S. officials, said the plane’s last transmission through the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, at 1:07 a.m. on March 8, indicated the shift in route, casting suspicion on the two pilots.

This was not true, Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said in a statement. “The last ACARS transmission, sent at 1:07 a.m., showed nothing unusual,” it said.

Authorities are still looking into whether the plane experienced some mechanical failure or accident.

The cargo included fruit, about 441 pounds of lithium batteries and Malaysian-manufactured radios, according to Malaysia Airlines. The airline has repeatedly said that the batteries, which are known to be flammable, were packed properly.

The spotlight is especially harsh on the state-owned company at the moment, with its every move being scrutinized. Around 3 a.m. Monday, a Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to the Incheon Airport in Seoul had to make an emergency landing in Hong Kong when an electricity generator failed.

When asked about this during a regular news conference on the missing plane Monday afternoon, Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said, “It’s not a safety issue per se. It’s a technical issue.”

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