Asia

MH370: Malaysia declares flight disappearance an accident

  • 29 January 2015
  • From the section Asia
The wife of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, holds a picture of her husband, at a news conference in Putrajaya, 29 January 2015
Image caption Relatives are still waiting for answers nearly a year after the crash

The Malaysian government has officially declared the disappearance of Malaysian Airline flight MH370 an accident and says there were no survivors.

No trace of the Beijing-bound aircraft has been found since it disappeared on 8 March 2014.

Officials say that the recovery operation is ongoing but that the 239 people onboard are now presumed dead.

The plane's whereabouts are still unknown despite a massive international search in the southern Indian Ocean.

The declaration on Thursday should allow compensation payments to relatives of the victims.

'Deepest sorrow'

Malaysian officials said that the recovery of the missing aircraft remained a priority and that they had pursued "every credible lead".

Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Director-General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said that it was "with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident.''

Media captionCaptain Bilal Sharma and his mother Shakuntala say they cannot accept that the plane their relative was on just disappeared

"All 239 of the passengers and crew onboard MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives," he said.

Following Thursday's announcement, China's foreign ministry called for compensation for the victims' families.

"We call on the Malaysian side to honour the promise made when they declared the flight to have been lost and earnestly fulfil their compensation responsibilities," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

The majority of the passengers on MH370 were Chinese.

Despite Thursday's announcement, the Malaysian authorities are not ruling out foul play, reports the BBC's transport correspondent Richard Westcott.

He says it is a legal move designed to help families claim compensation.

Image caption Declaring the missing plane an accident should help unlock compensation payments for bereaved relatives

Malaysia Airlines said they would be contacting the families to proceed with the compensation process.

But in China, some family members refused to accept the official position that the plane was lost.

"They have found nothing," said Li Jingxin whose brother is missing.

"With nothing found, how can they make any announcement?''

He told the Associated Press news agency that his family would not accept compensation from the airline at this time.


Analysis: Jennifer Pak, BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

In a pre-recorded statement on national TV, the Malaysian authorities announced that the disappearance of flight MH370 was an accident and that there were no survivors.

But some families were upset that the government decided on the fate of their loved ones without any concrete evidence.

Others complained on social media that the authorities should have informed the families before making the announcement.

Ten months on, it is clear that the Malaysian government is struggling to rebuild trust with families of the victims.

Many have refused to begin the compensation process, worrying that if they do then officials will stop searching for the plane.

However, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai says the governments of Malaysia, China and Australia remain firmly committed to the ongoing search.


'No evidence'

Four vessels are currently searching the seafloor with specialised sonar technology in a remote stretch of ocean where the plane is believed to have ended its flight.

Based on analysis of satellite and aircraft performance data, MH370 is thought to be in seas far west of the Australian city of Perth.

The DCA plans to release an interim report on its crash investigation on 7 March.