Malaysia declares MH370 an accident as search continues

After 10 months of fruitless searching, government says passengers and crew officially presumed dead

After 10 months of fruitless searching, government says passengers and crew officially presumed dead

KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian government declared the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident Thursday, 10 months after the plane went missing with 239 people on board.

Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told an emergency press conference that the passengers and crew were presumed dead but search operations would remain "a priority" for the countries involved, including Australia and China.

"After 327 days and based on all available data as well as circumstances mentioned earlier, survivability in the defined area is highly unlikely," he said.

"Without in any way intending to diminish the feelings of the families, it is hoped that this declaration will enable the families to obtain the assistance they need, in particular through the compensation process."

The Boeing 777 lost contact with air traffic control an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8, headed for Beijing. Based on satellite data, the flight is believed to have deviated from its original course and crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

Despite a massive international search, no trace of the plane has been found.

Rahman said investigators had concluded that the aircraft exhausted its fuel and crashed into a remote area of ocean far from potential landing sites and prone to rough sea conditions.

He explained that the investigations carried out by the Royal Malaysia Police and the Safety Investigation Team for MH370, comprised of representatives from seven countries, were limited by the lack of physical evidence, particularly the flight recorders.

"Therefore, at this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate any speculation as to the cause of the accident,” Rahman added. “An interim statement detailing the progress of the safety investigation is expected to be released on or around the one year anniversary of the accident."

The Australia-led Joint Action Coordination Center is conducting underwater searches across a 23,000 square mile (60,000 square kilometer) priority area in the Indian Ocean.

To date, the search has covered around 7,200 square miles and investigators hope to complete the priority search by May.

Four ships, Fugro Equator, Fugro Discovery, Fugro Supporter and GO Phoenix, are leading the search.

Malaysia Airline's crisis worsened on July 17 when Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Last month, another Southeast Asian jet, AirAsia’s Flight QZ8501, crashed over the Java Sea, killing 162 people.

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