(Adds Malaysia Airlines SMS, Chinese statement)
By Niluksi Koswanage and Siva Govindasamy
KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 Malaysia Airlines
Flight MH370, which disappeared over two weeks ago en
route to Beijing, crashed thousands of miles away in the
southern Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said
on Monday, citing new satellite data.
All 239 people on board were presumed dead, airline
Analysis of satellite information from British company
Inmarsat had shown that the Boeing 777's last
position was in the Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia, Najib
said in a statement.
"This is a remote location, far from any possible landing
sites," 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."
He added that the families of the passengers and crew had
"For them, the past few weeks have been heart-breaking. I
know this news must be harder still," he said.
Relatives of those on board received the news in a Malaysia
Airlines SMS message which said: "We have to assume beyond all
reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and none of those on
After the message, there were hysterical scenes at the
Beijing hotel where many of the relatives of those on board are
staying. More than 150 of the passengers were Chinese.
People wailed, cried and dropped to the floor. One woman
shouted out: "It's not possible, it's not possible."
A Reuters reporter on the scene saw at least four people
being carried away on stretchers.
China's government immediately demanded that Malaysia share
all information and evidence which showed the plane went down in
the Indian Ocean.
Najib's comments came as an Australian navy ship was close
to finding possible debris from the jetliner after a mounting
number of sightings of floating objects that are believed to
parts of the plane. The search site is about 2,500 km (1,550
miles) southwest of Perth, in icy sub-Arctic seas that are in
one of the most remote parts of the globe.
The objects, described as a "grey or green circular object"
and an "orange rectangular object", were spotted on Monday
afternoon, said Australian Prime Minister Tony 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 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 plane 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 Monday, Xinhua news agency said a Chinese
Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft spotted two "relatively big" floating
objects and several smaller white ones dispersed over several
In a further sign the search was bearing fruit, the U.S.
Navy was 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.
Investigators believe someone on the flight shut off the
plane's communications systems. Partial military radar tracking
showed it turning west and re-crossing the Malay Peninsula,
apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.
That has led them to focus on hijacking or sabotage, but
investigators have not ruled out technical problems. Faint
electronic "pings" also detected by Inmarsat suggested it flew
for another six hours or so, but the initial analysis could do
no better than place its final signal on one of two vast arcs,
the north and south corridors.
Najib said Inmarsat had been performing further calculations
on the data.
"Using a type of analysis never before used in an
investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed more
light on MH370's flight path," he said.
"Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the U.K. Air
Accidents Investigation Branch have concluded that MH370 flew
along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in
the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth."
Asked how Inmarsat experts had made the breakthrough, Chris
McLaughlin, senior vice president for external affairs, said:
"They tested (the earlier findings) against a number of known
flights of other aircraft and came to the conclusion that only
the southern route was possible."
The new method "gives the approximate direction of travel,
plus or minus about 100 miles, to a track line," he told
Britain's Sky News.
"Unfortunately this is a 1990s satellite over the Indian
Ocean that is not GPS-equipped. All we believe we can do is to
say that we believe it is in this general location, but we
cannot give you the final few feet and inches where it landed.
It's not that sort of system."
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard, Megha Rajagopalan and
Joseph Campbell in Beijing, Stuart Grudgings, Michael Martina
and A.Ananthalakshmi in Kuala Lumpur; Jane Wardell and Lincoln
Feast in Sydney; Matt Siegel in Perth; Writing by Raju
Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Nick Macfie)