The missing Malaysia Airlines plane plunged into the southern Indian Ocean according to new analysis of satellite data, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak said.
If confirmed, the news would be a major breakthrough in the unprecedented two-week struggle to find out what happened to Flight 370, which disappeared shortly after take-off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew aboard.
Dressed in a black suit, Mr Najib announced the news “with deep sadness and regret” in a brief news conference.
Mr Najib said the information was based on an unprecedented analysis of satellite data from Inmarsat.
Relatives of MH370’s passengers and crew have been told the flight ended in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean far from any landing sites.
Mr Najib said analysis by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch and tracking firm Inmarsat had revealed that MH370’s last position was in the ocean west of Perth.
“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites,” he said. “It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”
He added that Malaysia Airlines had already spoken to the families of the passengers and crew to inform them of the latest development.
“For them the past few weeks have been heart-breaking. I know this news must be harder still,” he said.
Mr Razak said a press conference would be held tomorrow with further details.
Mr Razak said that British firm Inmarsat had employed “a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort”.
The new data revealed that MH370 flew along the southern corridor where investigators had said the plane could have travelled along, based on pings sent several hours after it disappeared on March 8.
Investigators had drawn up two huge search areas in two large arcs - a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia and a southern corridor extending down towards Antartica.
Inmarsat was not immediately available for comment, while the AAIB referred any inquiries to the Malaysian authorities, who they referred to as the “lead investigators”.