Flight MH370 Formally Declared An Accident

( 4UMF NEWS ) Flight MH370 Formally Declared An Accident:

More than 10 months — precisely 328 days — after it went missing with 239 passengers and crew on board, Malaysian investigators on Thursday declared the disappearance of Flight MH370 an accident, clearing the way for families to pursue compensation claims.

Investigators with Malaysia's Civil Aviation authority concluded the aircraft exhausted its fuel supply over the southern Indian Ocean and is on the sea floor. Everyone on the flight is presumed dead. An underwater search continues west of Perth, Australia.

"It is with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the director general of Malaysia's civil aviation department, said in a statement.

The "declaration is by no means an end" to the search for the jet, a wide-bodied Boeing 777, he added. "At this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident."

The plane disappeared on March 8 last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia. That remote area is far from any possible landing sites, and the sea there has known depths of more than 19,600 feet, Azharuddin said.

Relatives of the 154 Chinese passengers on board the flight — many of whom cling to hope their loved ones are still alive — reacted with disbelief and anger to the announcement Thursday.

"I waited for a whole year, but this is not the answer I want to hear. I can't believe what they said. There is no evidence at all, how could they draw such a conclusion? There must be a conspiracy," said Li Xinmao, 57, whose daughter was on the plane. "I won't accept any compensation because they are hiding the truth. I can't accept it.

The search and rescue mission in the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the southern Indian Ocean was an "unprecedented exercise" involving aircraft and vessels from 13 countries, Azharuddin said.

Malaysia, China and Australia spared no expense and resources in the search, which has covered more than 5,300 square miles, he said. The hunt resumed in October after a four-month hiatus with more sophisticated sonar equipment. Search teams have pursued every credible lead and reviewed all available data, but have yet to find any evidence of the missing aircraft, Azharuddin said.

An interim statement on the progress of the safety investigation is expected to be released around the one-year anniversary of the incident.

The Convention on International Civil Aviation, commonly referred to as the "Chicago Convention," states that the definition of the term "accident" includes "the aircraft is missing," Azharuddin said in explaining the airline's announcement.

A criminal investigation led by the Royal Malaysia Police is ongoing, but that probe and others are limited by the lack of physical evidence, particularly the flight recorders, Azharuddin added.

"At this moment of sadness, the Chinese government expresses its deep sorrow for the misery of those on board, and offers its profound sympathies and sincere condolences to their families," Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesperson, said after Thursday's announcement.

"We call on the Malaysian side to act on the commitments made in the statement, fulfill its obligation of compensation, protect the lawful rights and interests of the families and provide them with support and assistance," she said. "We also call on the Malaysian side to remain fully committed to the search and investigation efforts and keep the families updated on the latest progress."

Dai Shuqin, whose younger sister and her family were on board, said the news "destroyed our last hope."

"They still cheated us like they did before. There is no evidence at all, how could they hurt us again and again like this," she said, crying. "I won't accept any compensation. It's their trap. They used it last year. I won't believe them."