Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) — A grim-faced Malaysian Prime Minister confirmed the worst fears of the families of those aboard Flight 370, announcing Monday that the missing plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
New analysis of satellite data by a British satellite company and accident investigators led to that conclusion, Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
“They have told us all lives are lost,” a missing passenger’s relative briefed by the airline in Beijing said.
While the last-minute announcement appeared to end hopes of finding survivors more than two weeks after the flight vanished, it left many key questions unanswered, including what went wrong aboard the Beijing-bound airliner and the location of its wreckage in the deep, wild waters of the Indian Ocean.
For families, some of whom had held out hope their relatives somehow were still alive, the news appeared to be devastating. At a briefing for relatives in Beijing, some were overcome and had to be taken from a hotel on stretchers. In Kuala Lumpur, a woman walked out of a briefing for families in tears.
Experts: Flight ended west of Perth
“My son, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter were all on board. All three family members are gone. I am desperate!” a woman said outside the Beijing briefing.
Another woman came out of the briefing room screaming, expressing doubts about the Malaysian conclusion.
“Where is the proof?” she said. “You haven’t confirmed the suspected objects to tell us no one survived.”
Sarah Bajc, the partner ofone of three Americans aboard the flight, Philip Wood, canceled all media interviews after the announcement.
“I need closure to be certain, but cannot keep on with public efforts against all odds,” she wrote. “I still feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along.”
A committee representing some of the families of the 154 Chinese and Taiwanese passengers aboard the missing aircraft sharply criticized the Malaysian government in a statement, accusing authorities of deliberate search delays and cover-ups, China’s state-run CCTV reported.
“If our 154 relatives aboard lost their lives due to such reasons, then Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and the Malaysian military are the real murderers that killed them,” the statement said, according to CCTV.
Malaysian police have interviewed more than 50 people in their investigation into the missing plane, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakal told Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama.
He said police are still focusing on four possibilities about what happened: a potential hijacking, sabotage, psychological issues or personal problems of the passengers and/or crew.
“Such cases may take up to a year,” Khalid said, “so please don’t jump to conclusions that the police are slow.”
Are found objects part of MH370?
While investigators have yet to find even a piece of the plane, the Prime Minister based his announcement on what he described as unprecedented analysis of satellite data by British satellite provider Inmarsat and the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch. He didn’t describe the nature of the analysis.
But he said the data — drawn from satellite pings the ill-fated airliner continued to send throughout its final flight — made it clear that the plane’s last position was in the middle of the remote southern Indian Ocean, “far from any possible landing sites.”
He begged reporters to respect the privacy of relatives.
“For them, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking,” he said. “I know this news must be harder still.”
The Prime Minister’s statement came after the airline sent a text message to relatives saying it “deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those onboard survived.”
The airline said it was making plans to fly families to Australia once wreckage is found.
Debris spotted in Indian Ocean
The announcement came the same day as Australian officials said they had spotted two objects in the southern Indian Ocean that could be related to the flight, which has been missing since March 8 with 239 people aboard.
One object is “a grey or green circular object,” and the other is “an orange rectangular object,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.
Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister, said Monday that Australian authorities hoped to retrieve the objects by Tuesday morning. The Australian naval ship HMAS Success was steaming toward the location at last word Monday evening.
The objects are the latest in a series of sightings, including “suspicious objects” reported earlier Monday by a Chinese military plane that was searching in the same region, authorities said.
A U.S. surveillance plane sent to follow up was unable to find the objects, and so far, none of the sightings has been definitively linked to Flight 370.
Ten aircraft — from Australia, China, the United States and Japan — searched the area Monday.
China said Monday after the Prime Minister’s announcement that it would be sending more ships to help search for the aircraft.
China has a particularly large stake in the search: Its citizens made up about two-thirds of the passengers on the missing Boeing 777.
Beijing, which has repeatedly called on Malaysian authorities to step up efforts to find the plane, repeated those calls Monday after the Prime Minister’s announcement.
China is paying “high attention” to the Malaysian announcement that the plane had gone down in the ocean, and asked authorities there for “all information and evidence leading up to such a conclusion,” according to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.