Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced late Monday night local time that a new analysis of satellite data shows that Flight 370 plunged into the southern Indian Ocean, a remote patch of water where the search effort has been increasingly focused during the past several days.
The new analysis, Razak explained, comes by way of the the British aviation agency that was crunching the numbers from the Inmarsat satellite data—which had previously narrowed down the jetliner’s last location to one of two possible corridors, one extending north to central Asia and one south to the Indian Ocean. “Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth,” Razak said. “This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. 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.”
Prior to the late-night announcement (which will be followed by a more detailed press conference tomorrow morning local time), airline officials delivered the sad news to the families of those passengers who were on board the 777 jetliner when it went missing less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. “We have to assume beyond reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived,” a text message sent to the families read, according to CNN. (The airline says there was also a face-to-face briefing for those family members who were able to attend.)
The announcement comes on the heels of mounting satellite evidence of debris thought to be from the missing flight in the southern Indian Ocean, roughly halfway between Australia and the desolate islands of the Antarctic. Those to-date unidentified objects, however, have not yet been located by planes and ships that have been sweeping the area for the past several days.
Assuming the official conclusion holds true and the plane did crash in the southern Indian Ocean, that answers only the question of where—but not the mystery of how or why. “The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain,” Razak said. “Alongside the search for MH370, there is an intensive investigation, which we hope will also provide answers.”
Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
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This post has been updated.