KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A new analysis of electronic data shows that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people aboard "ended" in a remote area of the Indian Ocean, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday.
Though no wreckage has been found, Najib said the finding means there could not possibly have been any survivors.
The prime minister said the new information, based on an unprecedented analysis of satellite data from Inmarsat and by British accident investigators, shows that the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia.
There are no islands nearby where the plane could've landed nearby, and if it went that far from its intended flight path the jet would have run out of fuel.
"This is a remote location, far from any possible landing site," Najib said in a brief, televised statement. "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."
The Boeing 777 had left Kuala Lumpur on March 8 bound for Beijing. The last word from the plane came only minutes before it made a mysterious left turn that sent it toward the Indian Ocean.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says a new analysis of satellite data shows that the missing Malaysia Airlines plane plunged into the southern Indian Ocean. (March 24) Video provided by AP Newslook
The purported crash area is the same location where satellite images have shown signs of debris that could be connected to the missing airliner.
Just before the prime minister spoke in Kuala Lumpur, the airline sent a brief text message to families of the passengers, saying, "(w)e have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived."
In Beijing, relatives who had been called to a hotel near the airport to hear the announcement shrieked and sobbed uncontrollably. Some collapsed, some broke chairs. People overcome with grief were taken out on stretchers by medical teams, and others lashed out at the news media present.
Ma Tong, a Beijing actuary whose mother Ma Wenzhi, 57, was among 153 Chinese passengers said, "I have cried so much these past days, but today I was quite calm."
Like many relatives, Ma, 29, reserved his anger for the Malaysian authorities.
"We Chinese relatives are just the playthings of the Malaysians. After 17 days, they release this speculative conclusion, one they could have reached after two or three days," he said. "They have long cheated us with excuses."
Najib, who wore a somber, black suit and took no questions, noted that the airline had informed the family members of the latest findings, adding, "For them, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking; I know this news must be harder still. I urge the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time."
Selamat Omar, father of Khairul Amri, a 29-year-old aircraft engineer on board the plane, said is still trying to come to terms with the "devastating" news.
"I was living with the hope that my son was alive somewhere," he told USA TODAY. "Now I know he is no more. But this is fate. I will have to accept it. I hope the search to find the plane and my son will continue."
Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of one of the American passengers, Philip Wood, said in an e-mail that she feels a need to "regroup" after the latest news.
"The announcement is on data only, no confirmed wreckage so no real closure," Bajc writes. "I need closure to be certain but cannot keep on with public efforts against all odds. I STILL feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along."
Reached for comment, Aubrey Wood, Philip's 76-year-old father, said, "I just can't talk to you right now."
Inmarsat, which provided the electronic data, owns and operates a global satellite network. An initial analysis of the information had indicated several possible flight paths for the airliner, including a northern route.
Inmarsat senior vice president Chris McLaughlin told Sky News that the company used the "doppler effect" of electronic pings to find the area where plane crashed.
Although the plane's main tracking devices had been switched off, its onboard equipment continued to respond to a ping relayed through a satellite 22,000 miles above the Earth by generating and returning an automatic ping of its own, he explained.
The company then compared the time for all this pinging with data from other flights and were able to spot a pattern, then narrow down the possible path of Flight 370 to the remote Indian Ocean location.
A Chinese plane had already reporting spotting "suspicious objects" in that area during its search for the missing aircraft and an Australian search plane also spotted potential debris, said to be "circular" and "rectangular."
Rain and poor weather conditions slowed the search in the purported crash area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth. Australian officials canceled Tuesday's search due to high winds and dangerous conditions, CNN and CBS News reported.
The objects were being treated as new leads in the case that has baffled investigators for more than two weeks rather than concrete evidence.
Malaysia's transport minister said in his daily news conference earlier that both objects sighted by Australia are orange in color and might be recovered by an Australian ship in as soon as a few hours. Hishammuddin Hussein said the missing jetliner had been carrying wooden pallets in its cargo hold.
And speaking to parliament, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: "I can advise the House that HMS Success is on the scene and is attempting to locate and recover these objects," adding that "one of the great mysteries of our time" may be closer to being resolved.
The crew of the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane saw the objects in an area that had been identified by satellite imagery as containing possible debris from the missing plane, China's state news agency Xinhua reported. The crew relayed the coordinates of the objects to the Australian command center and to a Chinese ship, the icebreaker Xuelong, which is on its way to the location.
China earlier released a satellite image captured Tuesday depicting an object located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects a week ago.
A Xinhua correspondent aboard the IL-76 aircraft said the Chinese crew spotted two large floating objects and several smaller, white objects scattered over several kilometers.
Calum MacLeod reported from Beijing. Contributing: Rich Jervis, William Cummings, Kim Hjelmgaard and Marisol Bello.