Relatives of missing flight MH370’s passengers and crew were told today there were no survivors and they had hoped in vain.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak revealed new analysis of satellite data by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch and tracking firm Inmarsat indicated the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
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, but much debris has been found in remote waters off Australia which might be part of the missing plane.
But bad weather will delay the search for wreckage at least another day, as the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) suspended Tuesday’s air and sea search operations due to adverse conditions.
Dressed in a black suit, Najib announced the news in a brief statement to reporters today, saying the information was based on an unprecedented analysis of satellite data from Inmarsat.
He said the data indicated the plane flew ‘to a remote location, far from any possible landing sites’.
THE WAIT TO FIND WRECKAGE
Australian search authorities called off continuing operations Tuesday due to dangerous weather conditions.
‘The area is also forecast to experience strong gale force winds of up to 80km/h, periods of heavy rain, and low cloud with a ceiling between 200 and 500 feet,’ AMSA said in a statement.
‘AMSA has undertaken a risk assessment and determined that the current weather conditions would make any air and sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew.
‘Search operations are expected to resume tomorrow, if weather conditions permit. HMAS Success will return to the search area once weather conditions improve.’
He said: ‘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.’
Relatives of passengers in Beijing had been called to a hotel near the airport to hear the news, and some 50 of them gathered there. Afterward, they filed out of a conference room in heart-wrenching grief.
One woman collapsed and fell on her knees, crying ‘My son! My son!’
Medical teams arrived at the Lido hotel with several stretchers and one elderly man was carried out of the conference room on one of them, his face covered by a jacket.
Minutes later, a middle-aged woman was taken out on another stretcher, her face ashen and her blank eyes seemingly staring off into a distance.
Most of them refused to speak to gathered reporters and some of them lashed out in anger, urging journalists not to film the scene.
Security guards restrained a man with close-cropped hair as he kicked a TV cameraman and shouted, ‘Don’t film. I’ll beat you to death!’
In Kuala Lumpur, screaming could be heard from inside the Hotel Bangi Putrajaya, where some of the families of passengers had been given rooms.
Selamat Omar, father of a 29-year-old aviation engineer aboard the flight, said in a telephone interview that Malaysia Airlines had not yet briefed the families on whether they will be taken to Australia. He said they expected more details Tuesday.
‘We accept the news of the tragedy. It is fate,’ Selamat said.
A multinational force has searched a wide swath of Asia trying to find the plane.
Mr Razak said that British firm Inmarsat had employed ‘a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort’.
Speaking to BBC News today, Chris McLaughlin, Inmarsat’s senior vice president, explained how his firm was able to conclude the aircraft definitely flew south.
He said: ‘We took Malaysian 777 airline data and modeled that against the northern and southern path and what we discovered was that the path to the south is undoubtedly the one taken.’
Asked why it took so long, he said: ‘We have been dealing with a totally new area, we have been trying to help an investigation based on a single signal once and hour from an aircraft that didn’t include any GPS data or any time and distance information so this really was a bit of a shot in the dark and it is to the credit of our scientific team that they managed to model this.’
The new data revealed that MH370 flew along the southern corridor where investigators had said the plane could have travelled along, based on pings sent several hours after it disappeared on March 8.
Investigators had drawn up two huge search areas in two large arcs – a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia and a southern corridor extending down towards Antartica.
HOW UK FIRM TRACKED MISSING FLIGHT MH370 SOUTH
Britain’s Inmarsat used a wave phenomenon discovered in the nineteenth century to analyse the seven pings its satellite picked up from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to determine its final destination.
The new findings led Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to conclude on Monday that the Boeing 777, which disappeared more than two weeks ago, crashed thousands of miles away in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board.
The pings, automatically transmitted every hour from the aircraft after the rest of its communications systems had stopped, indicated it continued flying for hours after it disappeared from its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
From the time the signals took to reach the satellite and the angle of elevation, Inmarsat was able to provide two arcs, one north and one south that the aircraft could have taken.
Inmarsat’s scientists then interrogated the faint pings using a technique based on the Doppler effect, which describes how a wave changes frequency relative to the movement of an observer, in this case the satellite, a spokesman said.
Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch was also involved in the analysis.
The Doppler effect is why the sound of a police car siren changes as it approaches and then overtakes an observer.
Inmarsat was not immediately available for comment, while the AAIB referred any inquiries to the Malaysian authorities, who they referred to as the ‘lead investigators’.
The announcement was made as an Australian navy ship was on its way today to retrieve two new objects spotted by military aircraft in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.
HMAS Success was expected to reach the two objects by tomorrow morning at the latest, Malaysia’s government said, as a mounting number of sightings of floating objects raised hopes wreckage of the plane may soon be found.
But the anticipation of what the Success may recover will be drawn out by AMSA’s announcement that Tuesday’s search operation was suspended.
So far, ships in the international search effort have been unable to locate several ‘suspicious’ objects spotted by satellites in grainy images or by fast-flying aircraft over a vast search area in the remote southern Indian Ocean.
‘HMAS Success is on scene and is attempting to locate and recover these objects,’ Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who called his Malaysia counterpart Najib Razak to inform him of the sighting, said in a statement to parliament.
The objects, described as a ‘grey or green circular object’ and an ‘orange rectangular object’, were spotted about 2,500 km west of Perth on Monday afternoon, said Abbott, adding that three planes were also en route to the area.
Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board on March 8.
No confirmed sighting of the plane has been made since and there is no clue what went wrong.
Attention and resources in the search for the Boeing 777 had shifted from an initial focus north of the Equator to an increasingly narrowed stretch of rough sea in the southern Indian Ocean, thousands of miles from the original flight path.
Earlier on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency said a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft spotted two ‘relatively big’ floating objects and several smaller white ones dispersed over several kilometres.
Beijing responded cautiously to the find. ‘At present, we cannot yet confirm that the floating objects are connected with the missing plane,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news briefing in Beijing.
Australia said that a U.S. Navy plane searching the area on Monday had been unable to locate the objects.
China has diverted its icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, toward the location where the debris was spotted. A flotilla of other Chinese ships are also steadily making their way south. The ships will start to arrive in the area on Tuesday.
Over 150 of the passengers on board the missing plane were Chinese.
The latest sighting followed reports by an Australian crew over the weekend of a floating wooden pallet and strapping belts in an area of the icy southern Indian Ocean that was identified after satellites recorded images of potential debris.
In a further sign the search may be bearing fruit, the U.S. Navy is flying in its high-tech black box detector to the area.
The so-called black boxes – the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder – record what happens on board planes in flight. At crash sites, finding the black boxes soon is crucial because the locator beacons they carry fade out after 30 days.
‘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,’ Commander Chris Budde, U.S. Seventh Fleet Operations Officer, said in an emailed statement.
Budde stressed that bringing in the black box detector, which is towed behind a vessel at slow speeds and can pick up ‘pings’ from a black box to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet, was a precautionary measure.
The Chinese aircraft that spotted the objects was one of two IL-76s searching on Monday. Another eight aircraft, from Australia, the United States and Japan, were scheduled to make flights throughout the day to the search site, some 1,550 miles southwest of Perth.
‘The flight has been successful in terms of what we were looking for today. We were looking for debris in the water and we sighted a number of objects on the surface and beneath the surface visually as we flew over the top if it,’ said Flight Lieutenant Josh Williams, on board a Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion.
‘The first object was rectangular in shape and slightly below the ocean. The second object was circular, also slightly below the ocean. We came across a long cylindrical object that was possibly two meters long, 20 cm across.
‘Everyone is quite hyped.’
Australia was also analysing French radar images showing potential floating debris that were taken some 850 km (530 miles) north of the current search area.
Australia has used a U.S. satellite image of two floating objects to frame its search area. A Chinese satellite has also spotted an object floating in the ocean there, estimated at 22 metres long (74ft) and 13 metres (43ft) wide.
It could not be determined easily from the blurred images whether the objects were the same as those detected by the Australian and Chinese search planes, but the Chinese photograph could depict a cluster of smaller objects, said a military officer from one of the 26 nations involved in the search.
The wing of a Boeing 777-200ER is approximately 27 metres long and 14 metres wide at its base, according to estimates derived from publicly available scale drawings. Its fuselage is 63.7 metres long by 6.2 metres wide.
NASA said it would use high-resolution cameras aboard satellites and the International Space Station to look for possible crash sites in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. space agency is also examining archived images collected by instruments on its Terra and Aqua environmental satellites.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid had just transitioned to flying Boeing 777s from other commercial planes and the missing flight was his sixth on that type of aircraft.
Fariq, who had passed all training requirements to fly without incident, was flying the plane for the first time without a so-called ‘check co-pilot’ watching.
The Japanese flight commander of an Orion aircraft confirmed he had ‘shared some information with the Chinese’ about MH370 debris.
But it was unclear whether Commander Hidetsugu Iwamasa had yet had a full briefing on the latest sighting today.
Commander Iwamasa said, according to Japanese media on the tarmac at Pearce: ‘We shared some information with China, but I cannot go into detail.’
‘We will do our best.’
The French satellite image was earlier thought to have been much closer to areas of the Indian Ocean where Australia and China provided satellite photographs of objects that could be debris from MH370.
That it is some 530 miles away has prompted Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss to describe the search operation as ‘clutching’ at information, as flight and sea crews embarked on their fifth day of sweeps in the target zone.
‘The French sighting is a piece of new material because that is in a completely different location. That is about 850 kilometres north of our current search area,’ Mr Truss told ABC Radio.
‘That’s not in the area that had been identified as the most likely place where the aircraft may have entered the sea. But having said all that we’ve got to check out all the options.
‘We’re just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts.’
Mr Truss added authorities still didn’t ‘know for certain’ if any of the objects spotted by satellite thus far were related to MH370, which mysteriously disappeared on March 8.
He said weather conditions were also complicated Monday by Tropical Cyclone Gillian, a powerful storm to the north of the search zone that is likely to hamper a full day’s search efforts.
‘It is a very difficult task,’ he added.
AMSA confirmed weather conditions were difficult Monday, as search teams re-commenced targeted sweeps of the Indian Ocean.
‘The weather forecast in the search area is expected to deteriorate with rain likely,’ AMSA said.
‘Today’s search is split into two areas within the same proximity covering a cumulative 68,500 square
‘HMAS Success remains in the search area. A number of Chinese ships are en route to the search area to assist in the location of objects possibly related to the search.’
Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas told the MailOnline The US military KC-10 extender tanker – an aerial refuelling aircraft – would be joining the search fleet, in particular to assist the US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft, which is out on mission today.
A Royal Australia Air Force AP3C Orion leaves RAAF Pearce Air Base in search of MH370. The flight went missing more than two weeks ago carrying 239 passengers and crew on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing
‘The United States is going to send a KC-10 tanker, which means the Poseidon will be able to stay out there virtually forever, instead of these two hour limits for actual search time,’ he said.
The two Russian made Ilyuchin IL-76 aircraft deployed by the Chinese government flew from Pearce airbase to Perth airport and off to the target area early Monday.
Mr Thomas said the Ilyuchins, which were used by Australian forces in Afghanistan to deliver supplies and ordnance, needed the longer Perth international runway for take-off once they were fully loaded with fuel for maximum flight capacity.
‘The IL-76s will use Perth airport as their take-off point for the length of this search,’ he said.
The Ilyuchin planes are also designed as airborne refueling craft, and have been used by China as emergency response planes, evacuating Chinese citizens out of Libya in 2011.
Meanwhile, it was claimed that police have seized the personal financial records of all 12 crew members of the flight MH370 – including bank statements, mortgage documents and credit card bills.
There, planes and a ship were scrambling today looking for a pallet and other debris to determine whether the objects were from the missing jet.
The pallet was spotted by a search plane yesterday, but has not been closely examined. Wooden pallets are commonly used in shipping, but can also be used in cargo containers carried on planes.
Mike Barton, chief of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s rescue coordination centre, told reporters in Canberra that the wooden pallet was spotted by a search aircraft yesterday.
He added that it was surrounded by several other objects, including what appeared to be strapping belts of different colours.
A New Zealand P3 Orion military plane was then sent to find it but failed, he said.
John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division, said today’s search was mainly relying on human eyes.
‘Today is really a visual search again, and visual searches take some time. They can be difficult,’ he said.
Mr Barton said while the weather was not as good at the start of the day with sea fog and low cloud, it was due to clear up later.
Despite the frustrating lack of answers, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was upbeat.
‘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,’ he told reporters in Papua New Guinea.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said it had refined the search based on the latest clue from the Chinese satellite showing an object that appeared to be 72ft by 43ft.
It said the object’s position also fell within yesterday’s search area but it had not been sighted.
Today’s search has been split into two areas within the same proximity covering 22,800 sq miles. These areas have been determined by drift modelling, the AMSA said.
Malaysian Defensee Minister Hishammuddin Hussein put a message on his Twitter account asking those in churches around the country to offer a ‘prayer please’ for the passengers and crew on Fight 370.
More than 300 Malaysian cycling enthusiasts rode their bikes to the Kuala Lumpur airport to remember the people onboard the jet.
The cyclists decorated the bikes with small Malaysian flags and stickers that read ‘Pray for MH370.’