The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 enters the 18th day but for the first time today investigators have conclusively narrowed the search to the southern Indian Ocean. Last night ended on a dramatic note after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak revealed evidence the planewent down in the Indian Ocean while MAS told family members that it is assumed “beyond reasonable doubt” none survived. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday personally informed Najib on sightings of two objects at a search area some 2,500km southwest of Perth and all eyes is on the search operation which will attempt to retrieve the objects for confirmation if it is indeed debris from the ill-fated flight. Below are updates and the latest coverage from various sources and news agencies:
1.11pm: To recap, below is the number passengers who were on boarded ill-fated Flight MH370, according to nationalities:
- China / Taiwan – 152, plus 1 infant
- Malaysia – 38
- Indonesia – 7
- Australia – 6
- France – 3
- United States – 3, plus 1 infant
- New Zealand – 2
- Ukraine – 2
- Canada – 2
- Russia – 1
- Iran – 2
- India – 5
- Netherlands – 1
12.40pm: A press conference by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is underway. These are some of the highlights:
- According to theguardian this is what MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya (right) says: “Our sole and only motivation last night…was that families heard the tragic news before the world did. Wherever humanly possible we did so in human with the families or by telephone.… Ensuring that they heard the news from us, and not the media.”
- BBC quotes Ahmad Jauhari: “We do not know why, we do not know how, we do not know how this terrible tragedy happened.”
- Asked if he would resign over the MH370 incident during a press conference, to which, he replies: “That is a personal decision.”
- He also reiterates that SMS to the families was a last resort – apart from meeting them in person and phone calls – in informing some 1,000 family members.
- MAS is also preparing to provide additional financial assistance to families as the search for the plane continues, up to US$5,000 (RM15,000) per passenger, and is preparing to offer additional payments if necessary.
- MAS officials are also quizzed on how a crash had been ascertained in the absence of any debris being positively identified.
- To a question is Malaysian officials were “heartless”, MAS says it put the passengers and their families first, and adds that depending who you speak to you, you will here a different version of what happened.
- “By the evidence given to us and rational deduction we could only arrive at that conclusion that we had lost the plane and by extension the people on the plane….We all feel enormous sorrow and pain. Sorrow that all those who boarded Flight MH370 on Saturday 8 March will not see their families again… It must be remembered too that 13 of our own colleagues and fellow Malaysians were also on board,” Ahmad Jauhari says.
- Bernama quotes MAS chairperson Md Nor Yusof as saying that missing flight MH370 is an unprecedented event followed by unprecedented response.
12.35pm: In Beijing, theguardian reports that protesters have reached the Malaysian embassy but are being prevented from entering by guards.
12.34pm: Australian Defence Minister David Johnston says waves at the search area is 20 to 30metres high and many ships have been shipwrecked in that part of the ocean before, including very big ships. He tells reporters in Western Australia that authorities will not risk safety of rescuers and so expect to wait out 24 hours. He also confirms that no debris has been lifted out of the ocean as yet. Meanwhile, Air Marshall Mark Binskin says: “We are not looking for a needle in a haystack. We are still trying to find information on where the haystack is.” Binskin says that cooperation between all nations involved have been “very good” and that the debris is still “visible by aircraft” but “it could be any debris from anywhere in the world”.
12.20pm: According to the BBC, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss informs that (Royal Australian Navy) ship HMAS Success has not met with success in recovering any of the suspected debris spotted by search planes yesterday. “Not a lot of progress has been made overnight and unfortunately there will be little capacity to search today and perhaps even into tomorrow.”
12.20pm: According to an SMS by Sin Chew Daily, Malaysian ambassador in China urges all Malaysians in Beijing to exercise caution, to watch out for their safety and that of their families.
12pm: Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak tables a motion in Parliament to express sadness over the loss of MH370. In a ten-minute long speech, Najib says he feels he had the responsibility to inform the families of those on board about the flight’s fate once the government had the information. He also denies that the government was hiding any information from the families throughout the tragedy. He says flags will be flown at half-mast today in respect for passengers and crew of MH370, once the wreckage is found. “Although there are suggestions that be done (to fly the flag at half-mast), the government feels we should find the objects and debris from the plane before we do that,” the premier tells the House.
11.45am: CNN‘s aviation correspondent comes in defence of the Malaysian government’s handling of the search. He says although mistakes were made, the situation is “unprecedented”. In a series of tweets, he said that the US’ National Transport Safety Bureau (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration, French air accidents investigation body BEA and the British Aviation Accidents Investigation are all part of the search. “It’s silly to suggest that only first world countries should investigate…worse still, it is wrong,” he tweets. “The Malaysians would be damned if they did release info and damned if they don’t. “No one In their right mind would have expected #MH370 would be 2,500(km) in the OPPOSITE direction without any radar or warning.” However, he says it is a “scandal” that Malaysian military missed MH370 flying back across the country.
11.40am: Canadian TV’s Janis Mackey Frayer tweets: “#MH370 relatives are heading to Malaysia embassy on foot to protest. Police closing streets to allow march”.
11.30pm: Aerospace company Boeing promises it will continue to assist in the search operations for the missing Boeing 777-200ER. “Boeing is saddened by today’s (Monday’s) announcement by the prime minister of Malaysia regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies continue to be with the families and loved ones of those aboard. “Boeing continues to serve as a technical advisor to the US National Transportation Board,” reads a statement on the company’s website.
11.15am: Passengers families in Beijing’s Lido Hotel protest as MAS officials arrive, reports Chinese news network CCTV. “They feel cheated and may plan further actions,” CCTV tweets. This comes as Canadian TV‘s Asia correspondent tweets that families of passengers in Beijing are heading to the Malaysian consulate to protest and demand more information. Theguardian, meanwhile, reports heavy police presence outside the embassy but says bus ferrying family members stopped some distance away. It also quotes a tweet by The Telegraph reporter that it appears the protest had been planned for some times as the family have printed t-shirts and signs. CCTV also reports that Malaysian envoy to China Iskandar Sarudin has been called up by the Chinese government.
11.12am: Aust gov’t waves families’ visa fees. Australian Prime minister Tony Abbott tells Australian parliament that “what has been a search has moved into a recovery phase,” reportstheguardian. He also confirmed details of assistance Australia will provide to affected families, saying the government will waive visa fees. “Should they come here, I want them to know they will be in the arms of a decent country.”
10.30am: Martin Babakhan, a meteorologist and lecturer at Australia’s University of Newcastle, tells theguardian that this time of the year is the most extreme for Australia as cold air masses flow from Antarctica. However, he says the cold air shifts makes it very dangerous for search aircrafts, but it is likely “not going to last long”. Australia earlier says it has postponed the search following bad weather and rough seas. Meanwhile, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott assures that the search will resume “as soon as possible”. “I understand that the loved ones of those on that plane may well wish to come to Australia in coming days and weeks. They will find a welcoming country that is more than willing to embrace them in this difficult time,” he tells reporters.
10.29am: NST tweets Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has instructed police to carry out a ‘thorough and detailed investigation” into the loss of Flight MH370, “for the sake of the families”.
10:15am: Families of Chinese passengers accuse the Malaysian government of acting as “executioners” by declaring their family members dead “without any direct evidence”. Sydney Morning Herald‘s Beijing correspondent quotes a statement from the Chinese Family Committee as saying that Malaysia’s “shameless behaviour” in the 18 days since MH370 disappeared had been detrimental to rescue efforts. “This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and lost valuable time for the rescue effort,” it said. With distrust permeating Beijing’s Lido Hotel where the families are putting up, the daily reports that one next-of-kin met said that he will only believe that his son is dead once he sees his son’s body.
10am: The Dewan Rakyat observes a one-minute silence as a mark of respect for the crew and passengers aboard MAS Flight MH370, declared to have gone down in the Indian Ocean, with likely no survivors. “I invite members of Parliament to rise and those who are Muslim are asked to offer prayers for the souls while non-Muslims are asked to observe a one-minute silence. Al-Fatihah,” House Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia says at the start on the day’s Parliament session. Meanwhile, over at the Bersih Peoples Tribunal, the same minute of silence is observed.
9.45am: 12 days left before black box battery dies. Just to recap, it has been 18 days since MAS Flight MH370 disappeared. That leaves less than two weeks, just 12 days, for search teams to find the plane before the black box battery runs out and it ceases to emit ‘pings’. According to Australia’snews.com.au, the black box emits one ‘ping’ per second for 30 days, which can be picked up by sonar and acoustic-locating equipment. However, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has vowed that search for the missing plane will not stop even after the black box battery runs out after the 30-day mark.He says there are other means investigators and search parties can employ to locate the black box.
9.30am: Aviation experts say that news MH370 is lost at sea is only “scratching the surface” of investigations which could take even longer than the two-year search for debris of Air France flight 447. Shawn Pruchnicki, a veteran disaster investigator and safety expert tells USA Today that the best thing is to find the plane’s black box. “That’s the best-case scenario. There’s about two hours of recording time on the cockpit voice recorder, so if there was an event going on, there’d be talk about smoke, about an intentional turn back.” “The worst-case scenario is if we don’t find the boxes and there’s limited wreckage because it’s so scattered, the search area is so vast and recovery is impossible,” says the Ohio State University Centre for Aviation Studies expert.
9am: Several local dailies appear “shrouded” today as they published they frontpage in black and white, as a sign of mourning of the announced fate of Flight MH370. The New Straits Times (NST) frontpage features the headline “Goodnight MH370″, while The Star says “370 R.I.P”. Other dailies includeBerita Harian, theSun,Harian Metro and Sin Chew Daily. The Malaysiakini masthead on its news site also goes black over news of Flight MH370.
8.59am: TV personality and host Daphne Iking also takes toTwitter to share a poem written by a friend in tribute to the ill-fated MAS flight. “I want to share this beautiful tribute poem written by my friend Mitch Yusmar Yusof: She wrote this last night after the PM’s announcement,” she tweets. Here is the poem in full:
“17 days since you went away, I have waited with hope and prayed,
But today…I am awaken to the news of emptiness,
Where once there were husbands and wives, children and lovers, mothers, daughters and relatives,
And today….It is just…Emptiness.
There will be visits to those places of memories,
To walk the shores and fields…reminiscing ..remembering,
and maybe…just maybe…you will be there,
instead of..this emptiness.
I would climb to the top of the mountain…to the deepest ocean,
to hear your voice in the wind,
your laughter in the rustles of leaves,
or your touch in the softness of the sand,
Instead of this emptiness.
As I looked up towards the clear blue sky,
I pray…where ever you are,
from where you’ve stopped to rest,
and into the arms of the angels,
you are HOME… at peace..and loved.
And for many left behind,
we will never understand and ever forget,
their voices…through this emptiness.
For MH370…. GOD bless all. Good night.”
8.56am: Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today joins in the outpouring of grief over the devastating news of the fate to have befallen Flight MH370, telling families of those aboard to remain strong He expresses his condolences upon hearing the news and tweets: “Baru terima berita mengenai MH370, saya berharap agar keluarga krew dan penumpang tabah menghadapi situasi ini.” (I’ve just received news on MH370, I hope the families of the crew and passengers are strong in facing this situation.” He is currently in Amsterdam to attend the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS).
8.40am: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong takes to Facebook to express his condolences over the tragic news of MH370 and those onboard, reports The Star Online. He posts: “For more than two weeks, we have been hoping against hope that somehow the worst did not happen. “We know how anguished and desperate the families and friends of those on board felt. “While we are still far from understanding what happened, I hope this latest news will nonetheless give some certainty and closure. He also relays his sympathies to the Malaysia and Chinese governments.
8.20am: MAS confirms that it has provided funds to passenger next-of-kins for “immediate financial hardship” but stresses this is not part of an insurance payout. It says the funds came from its own coffers. The Sundaily also reports that MAS denies foreign media reports it has received US$110million or any monies from insurers for the loss of the aircraft. There was also a report that the aircraft’s lead insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty paid the insurance money into an escrow account. MAS also insures its fleet with Etiqa & Takaful Bhd, but both Etiqa and Allianz declines comment. Yesterday, The Telegraph reports that MAS was paid US$110 million (RM364 million) from insurers following the loss of the the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft and insurers agree to award hardship payments to families of those onboard the plane. It estimates insurers could fork out more to families as international rules stipulate a minimum payment of £105,000 (RM572,000) per passenger.
7.09am: Reutersreports that satellite company Inmarsat used a wave phenomenon discovered in the 19th century to analyse the seven pings picked up from the missing to determine its final destination, which it concluded ended at the southern Indian Ocean.
7.30am: MAS issues a notice calling for a press conference at 12.30pm at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). It says MAS chairperson Md Nor Yusof and its chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya will address the media
7am: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) announes that search operations for today are suspended due to adverse weather which could pose a threat to search crew. It says in a tweet that search will resume tomorrow if the weather permits. It also says, in a statement, that due to rough seas, Australian vessel HMAS Success departed the search area early this morning. “A sea state ranging between 7 to 8 is forecast today with waves up to two metres and an associated swell of up to four metres. “The area is also forecast to experience strong gale force winds of up to 80km/h, periods of heavy rain, and low cloud with a ceiling between 200 and 500 feet. “Amsa has consulted with the Bureau of Meteorology and weather conditions are expected to improve in the search area in the evening and over the next few days.” its statement further reads.
6.15am: The US will send an undersea Navy drone to potentially help search for any sunken wreckage of Flight MH370, Reutersreports the Pentagon as saying.
5am: UK daily The Telegraph reports that MH370 was downed in an “apparent suicide mission”. Quoting unnamed “official” sources within the investigation, its correspondent in Kuala Lumpur reports that the aircraft was flown in a “deliberate” and “rational” manner the the point in the Indian Ocean.
2.30am: While families in Beijing collapse from rage and shock, those in the United States and Malaysia accept the harrowing news as “God’s will”.
1.00am: As the grim news sinks among anguished families of Chinese passengers in Beijing, the Chinese government is less than impressed about yesterday’s abrupt announcement.
12.30am: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) clarifies the text message it sent to the families of Chinese passengers informing them of MH370’s fatal fate which had been criticised as being insensitive. “As the (Malaysian) Prime Minister said, respect for the families is essential at this difficult time.