The missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was found to have ended its flight in the remote waters of the southern Indian Ocean, the Malaysian Prime Minister said on Monday, with all 239 people on board feared to have lost their lives in one of the biggest and most baffling tragedies in modern aviation history.
More than 17 days after Flight 370 disappeared from radars an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Monday night that the flight's "last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean", believed to be more than 2,000 km west of Perth in one of the most remote locations on Earth.
Mr. Najib said the United Kingdom's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), citing data from satellite company Inmarsat, had established the last position of the missing flight using analysis "never before used in an investigation of this sort".
"This is a remote location far from any possible landing sites," Mr. Najib said.
Questions will now turn to why the Beijing-bound aircraft tragically veered so far off course, plotting a course deep into the Indian Ocean until it likely ran out of fuel and plunged into remote waters.
Malaysian officials had said earlier they suspected "deliberate action", rather than a mechanical failure, after transponders had been turned off sometime around when the pilot last communicated with air traffic control.
On Monday, fresh sightings of debris - so far only seen in satellite images - were reported by aircraft scouring the remote waters. China said its Ilyushin-76 planes had spotted two big floating objects and smaller white objects spread over several kilometers, while Australian aircraft also reported spotting debris possibly linked to the aircraft.
Australia said a navy ship would likely reach the location of two objects spotted by its military aircraft, on Tuesday morning, allowing them to confirm whether the debris was linked to Flight 370.
For relatives, announcement brings anguish
For the relatives and friends of the 239 people on board Flight 370, Monday's announcement brought anguish, despair and a sense of disbelief, after a traumatic 17 days spent holding on to fast-diminishing hope that their loved ones would somehow return home safely.
At the Lido Hotel in Beijing, where many relatives have been holed up for two and a half weeks waiting for any morsel of information about their loved ones, families feared for the worst on Monday evening when they were told to gather at a meeting room on the hotel's second floor.
At 10 pm local time on Monday evening, the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak broke the news that none wanted to hear: that the flight had ended its tragic journey in the waters of the southern Indian Ocean, in one of the most remote regions on Earth and far from any known strip of runway.
The unending anxiety of the last two weeks had left some relatives in the despairing situation where even a hijack was a welcome outcome - only because it meant their loved ones had some chance of surviving.
The Prime Minister's announcement, however, extinguished any hope that remained.
For some, the news was too much to bear: paramedics were seen rushing into the hotel's second floor, wheeling in half a dozen stretchers, as some relatives fainted.
In his announcement, Mr. Najib said families had been notified before-hand. In truth, however, most learned of the fate of their relatives just as millions did around the world - gathered in front of a television set.
Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government have come under strong criticism from many of the relatives, who felt that the first few days following the plane's disappearance on March 8 were followed by often haphazard releases of information.
The airline sent a text message to relatives on Monday night saying "we deeply regret that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived."
On board the airplane were 239 people, including 154 Chinese, 38 Malaysians and five Indians. Many relatives had last week flown to Kuala Lumpur, where they were waiting for news on the missing aircraft. Most of those who remained at the Lido Hotel were relatives of the Chinese passengers on board the ill-fated flight.