The last faint hopes of finding survivors from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane were extinguished yesterday, when the Malaysian prime minister announced that flight MH370 had been lost in the southern Indian Ocean.
Najib Razak's statement followed more than two weeks of anguish for the families of the 239 on board and a massive international hunt for any trace of the plane. He said new analysis of satellite data showed that the last known position of the Boeing 777 was over a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean, far from any possible landing sites.
"It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," he told reporters in a late-night news conference.
Malaysia Airlines added in a statement to relatives of the passengers and crew: "We deeply regret that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived … We must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean."
Najib said: "For [families] the past few weeks have been heartbreaking. I know this must be the most heartbreaking of all," he added.
Najib said the conclusions were based on new analysis by UK aviation investigators and satellite company Inmarsat.
Many family members were informed by text message before the formal briefing began.
In Beijing, paramedics rushed to help relatives of Chinese passengers, who had been waiting at a hotel for the last two weeks. Wailing was heard as the families were informed of the news.
Malaysia's defence and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said on Twitter that words could not describe how he felt, and promised the families in particular that "the search continue[d]".
Hours earlier, Chinese and Australian planes had reported new sightings of items that could be linked to the plane.
The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, said earlier on Monday that the crew of an Australian P-3 Orion had located two objects: the first grey or green and circular, the second orange and rectangular. An Australian navy supply ship, the HMAS Success, was on its way to attempt to recover the objects, with Malaysian officials suggesting the vessel should reach them by Tuesday morning if not before.
Xinhua said the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong or Snow Dragon had also changed course towards the area. Six more Chinese ships are on their way to the wider search location, about 1,553 miles south-west of Perth.
Beijing-bound MH370 disappeared in the early hours of 8 March, not long after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. About two-thirds of the 239 people on board were Chinese.
Investigators have indicated that the flight was deliberately diverted just as it prepared to leave Malaysian airspace, turning west and recrossing the Malay peninsula. Communications systems were disabled or stopped working at about the same time.