KUALA LUMPUR, 30 January 2015: Malaysia on Thursday formally declared missing flight MH370 an “accident” and its passengers and crew presumed dead, a step that opens the door for compensation payments but which was met with anger by distraught relatives.
“It is therefore, with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that, on behalf of the government of Malaysia, we officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident,” civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a televised announcement.
“All 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives,” he added.
Many desperate MH370 relatives have continued to insist that the plane may have landed safely somewhere, and Malaysian authorities and the airline had until now refrained from drawing firm conclusions about its fate.
But Thursday’s announcement essentially declared that the plane had crashed somewhere after its disappearance last 8 March.
Azharuddin acknowledged the news was “very difficult” for next of kin to digest, but added “it is nonetheless important that families try to resume normal lives”.
He also said the airline was “ready to proceed immediately with the compensation process,” once families are ready. Malaysia Airlines officials were not immediately available for comment.
Many relatives accuse the Malaysian government and its flag carrier of a chaotic and bungled response to the plane’s initial diversion, which allowed the jet to disappear, and a subsequent cover-up. Those charges are strenuously denied.
Malaysian authorities say satellite data indicates the plane inexplicably detoured to the remote southern Indian Ocean, which they suspect was due to “deliberate” action on-board.
More than two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese nationals, and their angry accusations that Malaysia had concealed information drew China’s government into the fray, straining bilateral ties when Beijing criticised the disaster response.
Speaking after Malaysia’s announcement, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing was “deeply saddened”.
“We call on Malaysia to honour the commitments made in their statement” by providing compensation and other support to relatives in a timely manner and devoting “maximum efforts” to a transparent search and investigation effort.
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