Malaysian Prime Minister: Missing Flight ‘Ended In The Southern Indian Ocean’
PERTH, Australia (CBS News/CBSDC/AP) — Malaysia’s prime minister said Monday that the missing Malaysia Airlines flight “ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”
It has been “concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said at a press conference.
New satellite data shows that the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 plunged into the southern Indian Ocean.
“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. 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,” Razak said.
Malaysia Airlines said in a text message to Chinese families that there were no survivors among the 239 people on board the March 8 flight.
“We deeply regret that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived,” the airline said in the text message, according to Russia Today.
The airline said in a statement: “Our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time. The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain. Alongside the search for MH370, there is an intensive investigation, which we hope will also provide answers.”
Selamat Omar, the father of a 29-year-old aviation engineer who was on the flight, said some members of families of other passengers broke down in tears at the news.
“We accept the news of the tragedy. It is fate,” Selamat told The Associated Press in Kuala Lumpur.
Selamat said the airline hasn’t told the families yet whether they will be taken to Australia, which is coordinating the search for the plane. He said they expect more details Tuesday.
The prime minister’s statement comes after a Chinese plane spotted “some suspicious objects” in the broad area where satellite images have indicated possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but a high-tech U.S. military search plane which responded to the area Monday was able to find nothing.
Hours later, officials said the crew of an Australian Air Force plane had seen two objects floating elsewhere in the Indian Ocean search area.
Earlier Monday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the crew on board an Australian P3 Orion had located two objects in the search zone – the first grey or green and circular, the second orange and rectangular. The crew was able to photograph the objects, but it was unclear if they were part of an aircraft.
Separately, the crew aboard one of two Chinese IL-76 aircraft combing the search zone observed two large objects and several smaller ones spread across several square miles, Xinhua News Agency reported. At least one of the items – a white, square object – was captured on a camera aboard the plane, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
China had redirected the icebreaker Snow Dragon toward the latest find, and that ship was due to arrive early Tuesday. Six other Chinese ships have been directed toward the search zone, about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, along with 20 fishing vessels that have been asked to help, Hong said.
The ocean depth in the search area ranges between 3,770 feet and 23,000 feet, and the U.S. Pacific Command said it was sending a black box locator.
The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability so it can hear the black box “pinger” down to a depth of about 6,100 meters, Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. 7th Fleet operations officer, said in a statement.
“This movement is simply a prudent effort to preposition equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area so that if debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as possible since the battery life of the black box’s pinger is limited,” Budde said.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s rescue coordination center said the search area was expanded from 22,800 to 26,400 square miles and that two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 planes had joined the search from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft to 10 from eight a day earlier. It was one of those Ilyushins which reported the “suspicious objects” later Monday morning.
Flight 370 disappeared while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search that has turned up no confirmed pieces of debris and nothing conclusive on what happened to the jet.
In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in an interview with The Associated Press that satellite radar echoes had “identified some debris that could be from the Malaysian Airlines plane.”
The spokesman said that these echoes “are not images with a definition like a photograph, but they do allow us to identify the nature of an object and to localize it.”
Gathering satellite echo data involves sending a beam of energy to the Earth and then analyzing it when it bounces back, according to Joseph Bermudez Jr., chief analytics officer at AllSource Analysis, a commercial satellite intelligence firm.
Satellite radar echoes can be converted into an image that would look similar to a black-and-white photo, though not as clear, he said. “You’d have to know what you’re looking at,” Bermudez said.
A Malaysian official involved in the search said the French data located objects about 575 miles north of the spots where the objects in the images released by Australia and China were located.
One of the objects located was estimated to be about the same size as an object captured Tuesday by the Chinese satellite that appeared to be 72 feet by 43 feet, said the official, who declined to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
U.S. underwater wreck hunter David Mearns on Monday described the French satellite sighting of potential debris as a “positive development,” although he was unaware of the full details.
The latest French satellite data came to light on Sunday as Australian authorities coordinating the search sent planes and a ship to try to locate a wooden pallet that appeared to be surrounded by straps of different lengths and colors.
The pallet was spotted on Saturday from a search plane, but the spotters were unable to take photos of it.
Wooden pallets are most commonly used by ships but are also used airplane cargo holds, and an official with Malaysia Airlines said Sunday night that the flight was, in fact, carrying wooden pallets. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with company policy.
Mearns was an adviser to British and French search authorities following the loss of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Brazil to Paris in 2009.
He warned that time was running out to find confirmed wreckage that could lead searchers back to the aircraft’s black box.
The southern Indian Ocean is thought to be a potential area to find the jet because Malaysian authorities have said pings sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.
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 of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.
In the U.S., Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said on CNN: “There is no prevailing theory.”
“Publicly or privately, we don’t know,” he said. “We’re chasing down every theory.”
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