Malaysia today declared the mysterious disappearance of Flight MH370 an “accident”, clearing the way for the relatives of 239 people, including five Indians, on board to claim compensation nearly 11 months after the tragedy.
In a pre-recorded message Malaysia civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said, “It is with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident.”
“After 327 days and based on all available data received, survivability in the area of the crash is considered highly unlikely. All 239 passengers and crew on board are presumed to have lost their lives,” he said in the message broadcast on Malaysian television.
However, the search for the aircraft and investigations will continue, Azharuddin assured.
He said the government acknowledged the announcement would be difficult for relatives “to consider, much less accept…It is nonetheless important that families try to resume normal lives, or as normal a life as may be possible after this sudden loss.”
“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.”
The search for the Boeing 777-200 aircraft “remains a priority,” he said.
The plane vanished over the Indian Ocean on March 8 last year with 239 passengers and crew aboard en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in what remains one of history’s great aviation mysteries.
Despite an international search operation, no trace of the Beijing-bound aircraft has been found so far.
Officials said that the recovery operation is ongoing.
Azharuddin said that “Chicago Convention” on International Civil Aviation states that the definition of the term “accident” includes “the aircraft is missing”.
“It also states that ‘an aircraft is considered to be missing when the official search has been terminated and the wreckage has not been located.'”
Azharuddin said the investigation by the safety team and Malaysian police were ongoing, but both were limited by the lack of physical evidence at this time, particularly the flight recorders.
“At this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident,” he said, adding that an interim report detailing the progress of the safety investigation will be released on March 7.
He said that Malaysia Airlines is ready to proceed with the compensation process with due regard to the next of kin.