Passengers' relatives find it hard to accept the news
China has asked Malaysia to provide all the information and evidence leading to the conclusion that Malaysia Airline MH370 had ended in the southern Indian Ocean, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing early Tuesday.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the plane's fate on Monday night, adding that the conclusion was based on an unprecedented analysis of satellite data.
"With deep sadness and regret, I must inform you that flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," he said, citing satellite data provided by the British company Inmarsat, which indicated the northern and southern corridors of the search area.
"Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch 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," he said.
Najib said the data indicated the plane flew to a remote location, far from any possible landing sites.
The news is a major breakthrough in the unprecedented two-week struggle to find out what happened to the Boeing 777-200, which disappeared on March 8 shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people, including 154 Chinese on board.
Dressed in a black suit, Najib said Malaysia Airlines has informed the passengers' families of the plane's fate.
In Beijing, the family members found it hard to accept the news.
"It can't be true. No debris of the plane was found," a woman shouted at the Lido Hotel before fainting and being taken to an emergency room.
Her sister and daughter-in-law were aboard the plane.
Vice-Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng met Malaysian Ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin late on Monday night and asked him to handle the aftermath of the announcement properly.
Najib's announcement came as an Australian navy ship was close to finding possible debris from the jetliner after an increasing number of sightings of floating objects were believed to be parts of the plane.
Earlier on Monday, new floating objects were spotted by Chinese and Australian air search teams in the southern Indian Ocean close to where satellite images had detected possible debris from the plane.
The objects, described as a "grey or green circular object" and an "orange rectangular object", were spotted on Monday afternoon, said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, adding that three planes were en route to the area.
Attention and resources in the search for the plane had shifted from an initial focus north of the equator to an increasingly narrowed stretch of sea in the southern Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers from the original flight path.
Xinhua News Agency said on Monday that a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft spotted two "relatively big" floating objects and several smaller white ones dispersed over several kilometers.
In a further sign the search was bearing fruit, the US Navy was flying its high-tech black box detector to the area.
The so-called black boxes — the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder — record what happens on board planes in flight. At crash sites, finding the black boxes soon is crucial because the locator beacons they carry fade out after 30 days.
"If debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as possible, since the battery life of the black box's pinger is limited," Commander Chris Budde, US Seventh Fleet operations officer, said in an e-mailed statement.
Investigators believe someone on the flight shut off the plane's communications systems. Partial military radar tracking showed it turning west and recrossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.
That has led the investigators to focus on hijacking or sabotage, but they have not ruled out technical problems.
Faint electronic "pings" detected by a commercial satellite suggested the jet flew for another six hours or so, but they could only place its final signal on one of two vast northerly and southerly arcs.