SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- A seven-nation investigation has failed to discover what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 327 days after the plane disappeared over the South China Sea in one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation says both safety and criminal investigations have been limited by a lack of physical evidence, particularly the plane’s flight recorders.
“Therefore at this juncture there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident,” said Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the department’s director-general.
Families waiting anxiously for any developments in the investigation were bitterly disappointed when Mr Azharuddin made the most comprehensive statement on the investigation in months.
The department formally declared the disappearance an “accident,” a move that will open the way for the victims’ family members to receive compensation.
‘It is therefore, with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that, on behalf of the Government of Malaysia, we officially declare that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident … and that all 239 of the passengers and crew on board are presumed to have lost their lives,” Mr Azharuddin said.
Malaysia Airlines said it was ready to proceed immediately with a process that will see “fair and reasonable” compensation paid to relatives “in accordance with applicable laws.”
“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,” Mr Azharuddin said.
The Boeing 777 aircraft disappeared over the South China Sea in the early hours of March 8 last year after taking off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing, prompting dozens of wild theories about what happened to it.
Mr Azharuddin said that based on analysis of all available evidence and the supporting factual information the data supports the conclusion that MH370 ended its flight in the southern Indian Ocean west of Perth.
A search of the area where the plane is believed to have crashed into the ocean after running out of fuel has covered 18,600 square kilometres.
Four ships are continuing the search with the backing of Australia and China.
Mr Azharuddin’s statement made no mention of earlier indications by Malaysian officials that there appeared to be human interference with the plane’s communications equipment as it was leaving Malaysian airspace and entering that of Vietnam.
“Available data suggests that after the transponder ceased transmitting, there was no normal radio or aircraft system (ACARS) communications transmitted or received from the aircraft,” he said.
Mr Azharuddin said satellite communication system signalling messages placed the aircraft in an arc in the Indian Ocean where its fuel would have been exhausted.
He said based on the available data the plane was on the sea floor.
“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. It is also an area with adverse sea conditions with known depths of 6000 metres.”
Authorities in Kuala Lumpur are planning to release a detailed interim report into the investigations on March 7, the day before the first anniversary of the disappearance.
But officials say the report mainly covers technical issues and does not include any significant revelations about the disappearance.
The international team consists of the US National Transport Safety Board, Britain’s Air Accidents Investigations Branch, China’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Department, France’s Land Transport Accident Investigation Bureau, the Australia Transport Safety Bureau, aircraft manufacturer Boeing and British satellite communications company Inmarsat.
The report’s release is a requirement of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Mr Azharuddin confirmed that a Malaysian police investigation into the disappearance is ongoing.
No details have been made public.
“We have never wavered in our commitment to continue our efforts to find MH370 and bring closure for everyone, most of all for the families of the passengers and crew,” Mr Azharuddin said.
“This declaration is by no means the end. We will forge ahead with the cooperation and assistance of the governments of China and Australia. MH370, its passengers and its crew will always be remembered and honoured,” he said.
Some family members were disappointed when the department called off a press briefing because family members had turned up.
They were to be provided a separate briefing.
Earlier family members issued a statement urging the Malaysian officials not to “jump the gun” on what they announce.
The crisis worsened for Malaysia Airlines on July 17 when another plane,, Flight MH17, was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
Rounding out a bad year for Southeast Asian carriers, an AirAsia flight from Indonesia’s second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore crashed in December, killing all 162 people on board.