Malaysia PM says missing jetliner's flight ended in Indian Ocean

Published March 24, 2014

| FoxNews.com

DEVELOPING: Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak says new analysis of satellite data in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 indicates that the plane’s flight ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.

“Based on new analysis….MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth,” Razak said Monday. “It is therefore, with deep sadness and regret, that I must inform you that according to this new data that flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

Shortly before Razak’s announcement, relatives of the passengers were booked on charter flights to take them to Australia, sources told Sky News. An emergency meeting between families and Malaysia Airlines officials was scheduled to take place in Beijing, and paramedics were on scene, according to Sky News.

Earlier Monday, Australian and Chinese search planes spotted more objects in the southern Indian Ocean that were identified as possible debris from the missing jet.

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Relatives of passengers on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 reportedly have been called to an emergency meeting with the airliner, hours after Australian and Chinese search planes spotted more objects in the southern Indian Ocean that could be possible debris from the missing jet.

Malaysia's Prime Minister, Najib Razak, will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. ET Monday, and is expected to speak about the latest developments in the investigation.

Sources told Sky News that the relatives of the passengers have been booked on charter flights to take them to Australia. An emergency meeting between families and Malaysia Airlines officials will take place in Beijing within the hour and paramedics are on scene, according to Sky News.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the crew of an Australian P3 Orion plane had located two objects in the search zone -- the first grey or green and circular, the second orange and rectangular. The crew was able to photograph the objects, but it was unclear if they were part of an aircraft.

"They could be flotsam," Abbott said in Canberra. "Nevertheless we are hopeful that we can recover these objects soon and that they will take us a step closer to resolving this tragic mystery."

An Australian Navy supply ship, the HMAS Success, was on the scene Monday trying to locate and recover the objects. Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the vessel could reach them by Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Separately, the crew aboard one of two Chinese IL-76 aircraft combing the search zone observed two large objects and several smaller ones spread across several square miles, Xinhua News Agency reported. At least one of the items -- a white, square 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 their latest find, and that ship was due to arrive in the area early Tuesday. Six other Chinese ships have been directed toward the search zone, along with 20 fishing vessels, Lei said.

Australia said a U.S. Navy plane searching the area Monday wasn’t able to locate the objects, according to Reuters.

Relatives of passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777 were avidly following news reports of the latest sightings, desperate for any word on the fate of loved ones.

"We're eager to learn more about this," said Wang Zhen, who is staying at a hotel near Beijing. His father and mother, Wang Linshi and Xiong Yunming, were both aboard the flight as part of a group of Chinese artists touring Malaysia.

Despite the reported sightings of objects, there still has not been one confirmed sighting of debris from the missing plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members and was due to fly from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on the morning of March 8.

The U.S. Pacific command said Monday that it was sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located. The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability so that if a crash site is located, it can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet, according to Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. 7th Fleet operations officer.

"This movement is simply a prudent effort to preposition equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area so that if debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as possible since the battery life of the black box's pinger is limited," Budde said.

There was no sign the move was made because of any break in the mystery, but rather was done as a preparation.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority's (AMSA) rescue coordination center said the search area was expanded from 22,800 to 26,400 square miles and that two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 planes had joined the search from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft to 10 from eight a day earlier.

It said the weather in the search area, about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, was expected to deteriorate with rain. On Tuesday, a cold front was expected to move through the search area from the west, bringing showers, more low cloud and less visibility. Tropical Cyclone Gillian, which is further to the north, will not impact the area.

The search was given added momentum when a French satellite detected potential debris on Sunday, after Australia and China earlier released satellite images identifying suspected objects.

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said the French radar data located the objects about 520 miles north of the current search area, and that "we need to check that out as well."

A Malaysian official involved in the search said one of the objects located was estimated to be about the same size as an object captured Tuesday by the Chinese satellite that appeared to be 72 feet by 43 feet.

U.S. underwater wreck hunter David Mearns on Monday described the French satellite sighting of potential debris as a "positive development," although he was unaware of the full details.

Mearns was an adviser to British and French search authorities following the loss of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Brazil to Paris in 2009.

He warned that time was running out to find confirmed wreckage that could lead searchers back to the aircraft's black box.

Australian authorities Sunday also had sent planes and a ship to try to locate a wooden pallet that was spotted on Saturday from a search plane, but the spotters were unable to take photos of it.

Wooden pallets are most commonly used by ships but are also used in airplane cargo holds, and an official with Malaysia Airlines said Sunday night that the flight was, in fact, carrying wooden pallets. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with company policy.

The southern Indian Ocean is thought to be a potential area to find the jet because Malaysian authorities have said pings sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Authorities are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots.

Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar, reiterated at a news conference Monday that all the passengers had been cleared of suspicion.

But he said the pilots and crew were still being investigated. He would not comment on whether investigators had recovered the files that were deleted a month earlier from the home flight simulator of the chief pilot.

Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid had just transitioned to flying Boeing 777s from other commercial planes and the missing flight was his sixth on that type of aircraft.

"The first five flights, the co-pilot normally flies with what we call the check co-pilot. He actually passed the first five flights. We do not see any problem with him," Yahya said, according to the AFP.

Malaysia's Prime Minister, Najib Razak, will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. ET Monday, and is expected to speak about the latest developments in the investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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