The search for Malaysia Airline flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean will continue despite authorities declaring the disappearance an accident. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
Malaysia has announced all 239 passengers and crew on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are presumed dead.
The head of the nation’s civil aviation authority made the statement at a press conference on Thursday.
He also declared the disappearance an accident and said the plane was located on the sea floor of the Indian Ocean.
An interim report into MH370’s disappearance will be made public on March 7, a day before the one-year anniversary of the plane going missing.
The Boeing 777 aircraft disappeared shortly after taking off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing.
Months of searches have failed to turn up any trace of the plane.
“We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident… and that all 239 of the passengers and crew onboard MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives,” Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a statement.
The announcement was in accordance with standards of annexes 12 and 13 in the International Civil Aviation, Mr Azharuddin said.
“The Government of Malaysia acknowledges that this declaration of MH370 accident will be very difficult for the families and loved ones of the 227 passengers and 12 crew on board to consider, much less accept. Thirteen nations have also lost sons and daughters to this tragedy. It is nonetheless important that families try to resume normal life or as normal a life as may be possible after this sudden loss,” Mr Azharuddin said.
“Without in any way intending to diminish the feelings of the families, it is hoped that this declaration will enable the families to obtain the assistance they need, in particular through the compensation process,” he said, adding Malaysia Airlines was ready to proceed immediately with the compensation process to the next-of-kin of the passengers on the flight.
Six Australians were on board. The majority of passengers were from China.
“We call on the Malaysian side to honour the promise made when they declared the flight to have been lost and earnestly fulfil their compensation responsibilities,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
International investigators are looking into why the Boeing jet veered thousands of kilometres off course from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian Ocean.
The search in the Indian Ocean continues and Malaysia is also conducting a criminal investigation, Mr Azharuddin said.
“Both investigations are limited by the lack of physical evidence at this time, particularly the flight recorders,” he said.
“Therefore, at this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident.”