This post was updated at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that new analysis of the flight path of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 showed that it “ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”
Speaking at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Razak said the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the U.K.-based satellite company Inmarsat had used a first-of-its-kind analysis to determine the course of the Boeing 777 and the 239 passengers and crew aboard. Most of the people aboard the Beijing-bound flight from Kuala Lumpur were Chinese nationals.
“Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB 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,” the prime minister said.
“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites,” Razak added. “It is therefore that with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that with this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”
He said Malaysia Airlines had informed the families of the news.
In a statement, the airline said it “regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that no one aboard survived.”
“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,” the statement read.
The airline also tweeted: “We humbly offer our sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to everyone affected by #MH370 tragedy.”
If the analysis proves correct, it would put to rest part of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the airliner on March 8. That event launched the largest-ever air-and-sea search and spawned numerous theories about why the aircraft’s communications went silent just as it made a radical course change and disappeared from radar scopes.
Even if wreckage from the plane is found, however, it could be some time before the plane’s flight data recorder could be recovered from the Indian Ocean. If it is recovered, it could take weeks or months more before details of what happened in the airplane are learned.
The Associated Press quotes Wang Zhen, whose father and mother were aboard the plane, as saying he received a text message in English from the airline advising him of the findings and Razak’s pending news conference.
Hours after the Malaysian prime minister’s announcement, China’s foreign ministry demanded all information related to the missing airliner.
“China has already demanded that Malaysia further provides all information and evidence about how it reached this conclusion,” the ministry said in a statement.
Our original post continues:
Australian and Chinese planes spotted several floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean that could be wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing since March 8. Ships have been dispatched to investigate.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described one object observed by an Australian P-3 Orion as circular and gray and another as rectangular and orange. Both were reported to be floating just below the surface. Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the objects could be recovered in the next few hours.
Meanwhile, China’s Xinhua News Agency reports that a Chinese IL-76 aircraft that’s been combing the search zone located two other large objects and several small ones spread out over several square kilometers of ocean.
The Associated Press says:
“At least one of the items — a white, square-shaped object — was captured on a camera aboard the plane, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
” ‘We are still racing against time,’ Hong said at a ministry briefing. ‘As long as there is a glimmer of hope, our search efforts will carry on.’
“China has 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 along with 20 fishing vessels that have been asked to help, Lei said.”
The visual sightings follow satellite images of objects suspected of being possible wreckage that were reported over the weekend.
Tropical Cyclone Gillian is bearing down on the Indian Ocean. Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said “forecasts ahead are not all that good” for the search area. But the Australian Maritime Safety Authority tweeted that the search would not be affected by the storm system.
As a “precautionary measure in case a debris field is located,” the U.S. Navy has ordered its “Towed Pinger Locator 25,” or TPL-25, into the search area.
According to a Navy statement:
The TPL-25 Towed Pinger Locator System is able to locate black boxes on downed Navy and commercial aircraft down to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet anywhere in the world. Commercial aircraft pingers are mounted directly on the flight recorder, the recovery of which is critical to an accident investigation.
The Pinger Locator is towed behind a vessel at slow speeds, generally 1-5 knots, depending on the depth. The tow array carries a passive listening device for detecting pingers that automatically transmit an acoustic pulse.