Malaysia has formally declared the disappearance of MH370 to be an accident and that all who were on board are presumed dead. The Beijing-bound flight disappeared shortly after take off almost one year ago and has become one of world’s biggest airline mysteries. Although the announcement may seem unsurprising, it has practical implications for the families of those who were on the flight.
Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation says that after 327 days and based on all available data, survivability in the defined area is highly unlikely.
"With the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that on behalf of the Government of Malaysia, we officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident in accordance with the standards of Annexes 12 and 13 to the Chicago Convention and that all 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives," said Azharuddin.
He says the search for the missing plane, which covered over 18,600 square kilometers, will continue. The process of granting the next-of-kin of those on board with compensation would begin immediately, he adds.
“The government of Malaysia assures that Malaysia Airlines will undertake their responsibilities in relation to the legitimate rights and interests of the next-of-kin as provided under the relevant international instruments and relevant domestic laws, with due consideration to international practice," said Azharuddin. "This includes the fulfillment of the compensation process, whether it is pursued through consultation or through litigation."
The majority of the passengers on board flight MH370 were Chinese nationals traveling home to Beijing.
In comments to the media Thursday, following a meeting with his French counterpart, China’s Premier Li Keqiang expressed his deepest sympathy for the families of all of those on board the flight.
Li says China hopes Malaysia will keep its promise to conduct a thorough investigation, compensate and provide care for the families. He also urged them make every effort to find the plane and its passengers.
In China, some of the family members of those on board watched the announcement together. Dai Shuqin’s sister and four other relatives were on the plane.
Dai says family members feel very upset and are in disbelief. She says they do not believe one bit of what the officials are saying.
Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin says an interim investigative report will be released March 7, one day before the anniversary of the flight’s disappearance.
"Both investigations are limited by the lack of physical evidence at this time, particularly the flight recorders," said Azharuddin. "Therefore at this juncture there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident.”
Investigators are still trying to understand why the plane veered thousands of kilometers off course and presumably ended up in the southern Indian Ocean.