KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines on Monday told relatives of the 239 people on board a missing passenger jet that “we have to assume” the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean, but vowed the search for the jet would continue.
“On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones (of those on board) at this enormously painful time,” the airline said in a statement to the families, citing new analysis of satellite data.
“We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain. We will continue to provide assistance and support to you.”
The airline vowed in its statement that the ongoing search for the plane and an intensive investigation into its fate “will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain.”
MH370 vanished without warning on March 8 while flying over the South China Sea en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.
Earlier on Monday, an Australian plane searching the vast Indian Ocean for signs of the missing jet spotted two objects which Malaysia said could be retrieved by a ship within hours.
There was no initial confirmation that the objects were linked to the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet but their sighting added to mounting reports of debris that have energised the huge multinational search for the plane two weeks after it went missing.
Crew members of an Orion plane “reported seeing two objects, the first a grey or green circular object and the second an orange rectangular object,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament on Monday evening.
Australian officials made clear they were different to pieces seen by a Chinese plane earlier in the day.
The Australian naval ship HMAS Success, equipped with a crane, was in the area, about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth, and would attempt to recover the objects.
It was possible “that the objects could be received within the next few hours, or by tomorrow morning at the latest,” Malaysian Transport and Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
After days of tantalising leads that have failed to pay off, Abbott cautioned that it was not known whether the objects came from the missing Boeing 777.
“Nevertheless we are hopeful that we can recover these objects soon and they will take us a step closer to resolving this tragic mystery,” he said.
China’s Xinhua news agency earlier said a Chinese air crew spotted “two relatively big floating objects with many white smaller ones scattered within a radius of several kilometers.”
But a US search plane was unable subsequently to locate them.
However, hopes of a resolution to the mystery have risen after a weekend in which an Australian aircraft spotted a wooden pallet, strapping and other debris, and French and Chinese satellite information also indicated floating objects far off Australia’s west coast.