Malaysia’s government has formally declared the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as an accident, with the loss of all 239 passengers and crew.
Department of Civil Aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman detailed the decision during a briefing on 29 January.
He acknowledged that the declaration – in line with ICAO definitions – would be “very difficult” for the relatives of those on board the Boeing 777-200ER, which vanished en route to Beijing on 8 March last year.
The search for MH370 has failed to turn up any sign of the missing aircraft after 327 days.
Based on all available evidence, including the satellite data which indicates the jet flew to the remote southern Indian Ocean, survivability was “highly unlikely”, said Azharuddin.
The search for MH370 in the ocean region defined by investigators is “ongoing” and will continue, he stresses. Four specialist search vessels are participating.
Investigators also intend to release an interim report, in line with standard practice, around the one-year mark in early March.
But Azharuddin points out that the safety and criminal inquiries into the loss have been “limited by a lack of physical evidence”, notably the absence of the 777’s flight recorders.
“There is no evidence to substantiate any speculation as to the cause of the accident,” he says.
Malaysia Airlines, he adds, is ready to “proceed immediately” with the next stage of the compensation process following the formal declaration.
Around 30% of the priority search zone has been examined by the fleet tasked with hunting for MH370's wreckage. The Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, which is overseeing the effort, expects the underwater search to be completed around May.