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Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 'went down in southern Indian Ocean'

ABC News logo ABC News 25/03/2014 ABC News
Malaysia © AP Photo/Jason Reed Malaysia

Relatives offered free visas to come to Australia

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the search operation has now moved into a recovery and investigation phase.

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He says it is a difficult time for thousands of people around the world who have lost friends and family.

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"I understand that the loved ones of those on that plane may well wish to come to Australia in coming days and weeks," he said.

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"They will find a welcoming country that is more than willing to embrace them.

"I want them all to know that should they come here they will be in the arms of a decent country.

"The Government has decided to waive visa fees for any relatives wishing to come to Australia."

Bad weather hampers search for possible debris

AMSA says search operations have been suspended until further notice because of two-metre high waves and four-metre swell caused by 80kph gale-force winds.

HMAS Success has left the zone due to rough seas and is travelling to an area south until conditions improve.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says Malaysia's announcement moves the operation to a new phase.

"It moves it to a stage where we are investigating an accident, a loss of an aircraft, and some new decisions will have to be taken now about the direction of future operations," he said.

The US military has deployed a black box locator and a robotic underwater vehicle to the Indian Ocean to help with the search.

Officials said the locator system, which relies on acoustic signals to track down flight recorders, and the Bluefin-21, an unmanned device that can scan the ocean's depths, were being flown to Perth as a "prudent" step.

The robotic Bluefin-21 can produce high-resolution imagery of the ocean floor at a depth of up to 4,500 metres and operate for up to 25 hours, according to the Pentagon.

Resembling a torpedo, the vehicle is five metres long and can travel at a speed of up to 4.5 knots.

A US Navy aircraft has been unable to verify objects found in the search zone due to bad weather but if it does, a Towed Pinger Locator 25 will also be sent to help locate the missing black box.

A deep-water recovery expert credited with discovering 21 shipwrecks says specialised equipment would have to be flown in from overseas to retrieve the wreckage.

David Mearns, director of Blue Water Recoveries, which located the HMAS Sydney in 2009, told Lateline that ocean currents would probably have spread debris hundreds of kilometres from the main wreckage.

He says finding the black box from MH370 could be much harder than the 2009 search for an Air France plane, which took two years.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in Federal Parliament that search planes had been sent to check on what satellite images suggested were two objects "possibly related to the search".

Mr Abbott said the first object was grey or green and circular and the second was orange and rectangular.

Three potential debris sites were found using a US Poseidon's radar, but the crew was unable to see anything because of poor visibility.

A deep-water recovery expert credited with discovering 21 shipwrecks says specialised equipment will have to be flown in from overseas to retrieve any wreckage.

David Mearns, director of Blue Water Recoveries, which located the HMAS Sydney in 2009, told Lateline that ocean currents would probably have spread debris hundreds of kilometres from the main wreckage.

He says finding the black box from MH370 could be much harder than the 2009 search for an Air France plane, which took two years.

"We're talking about a completely different scale of uncertainties and areas to cover in terms of the search, so despite these promising results in the past few days to give us some confidence we'd be able to do it, it's still an uphill battle to actually locate the wreckage on the seabed," he said.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 'went down in southern Indian Ocean'

China has demanded proof and distraught relatives have reacted with shock and anger after Malaysia announced it now believed missing flight MH370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors.

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak announced overnight that new satellite data from UK company Inmarsat showed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 flew along the southern search corridor.

"Using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed more light on MH370's flight path," he said.

The analysis concluded that the plane's last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.

"It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that in light of this new data, MH370 flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean," Mr Najib said.

"The past few weeks have been heartbreaking. I know this news must be harder still."

Inmarsat's satellites facilitate ACARS - manual or automated text messages sent from planes back to base and vice versa.

Data from the satellites can help to refine the plane's location by extrapolating a rough location from the time it takes for the 'ping' to be picked up by two satellites.

Malaysia Airlines sent a text message to relatives ahead of Mr Najib's announcement saying "we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived".

The airline said the SMS message was used "only as an additional means of communicating with the families".

A statement was also issued shortly before Mr Najib's press conference:

"Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia’s Prime Minister, new analysis of satellite data suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean."

"On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time."

"We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain. We will continue to provide assistance and support to you, as we have done since MH370 first disappeared in the early hours of 8 March, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing."

"The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain. Alongside the search for MH370, there is an intensive investigation, which we hope will also provide answers."

"We would like to assure you that Malaysia Airlines will continue to give you our full support throughout the difficult weeks and months ahead."

"Once again, we humbly offer our sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy."

Aircraft and ships from more than 20 nations have been hunting for any signs of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 since it disappeared on March 8.

The jet was carrying 239 people, including six Australians, and was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it went missing.

Hysterical scenes in China

Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight reacted with hysteria when news of the lost aircraft was announced.

At the Beijing hotel where many of the relatives are staying, family members erupted in shouts and tears after they heard the news, wailing and in some cases dropping to the floor.

One woman screamed out: "It's not possible, it's not possible!" before collapsing.

At least four people were stretchered out, having apparently been overcome with emotion.

A statement read out by families of some Chinese passengers labelled Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government and military as "the real executioners who killed".

"This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families ... but also misguided and delayed rescue actions," they said.

"We will take every possible means to pursue the unforgivable crimes and responsibility of all three."

China has repeatedly pressed the airline and the Malaysian government to give more information to family members and ensure they are being properly looked after.

Some relatives had previously threatened hunger strikes and protests in front of the Malaysian embassy to express their anger.

Malaysia Airlines has told relatives they will be brought to the "recovery area" as the search for wreckage goes on, without specifying where that area is.

The official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, the People's Daily, said many questions remained unanswered, including why the plane ended up in the Indian Ocean and what exactly the new satellite evidence was.

China has demanded that Malaysia hand over the satellite data which led to its judgement.

In a meeting overnight, deputy foreign minister Xie Hangsheng asked Malaysia's ambassador to China, Iskandar Bin Sarudin, to provide the "detailed evidence" that led to the conclusion, China's ministry of foreign affairs said.

"We demand the Malaysian side to state the detailed evidence that leads them to this judgement, as well as supply all the relevant information and evidence about the satellite data analysis," Mr Xie said, according to a statement on the ministry's website.

"The search and rescue work cannot stop now, we demand the Malaysian side to continue to finish all the work including search and rescue."

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