Asia-Pacific News

Malaysia says jet went down in sea, bad weather halts search

Malaysia Airlines CEO: Used SMS as last resort

The search for any wreckage of a missing Malaysian plane was suspended on Tuesday due to bad weather and rough seas in a remote area of the Indian Ocean where officials say the jet carrying 239 people most probably crashed.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said late Monday that according to new satellite-data analysis from British firm Inmarsat, the plane was probably at the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished mysteriously from civilian radar screens less than an hour after departing the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on March 8 en route to Beijing.

(Read more: Doomed Malaysia Air flight 'lost beyond doubt')

"My heart breaks to think of the unimaginable pain suffered by all the families. There are no words which can ease that pain. Everyone in the Malaysia Airlines family is praying for the 239 souls on MH370 and for their loved ones on this dark day," Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, group CEO at Malaysia Airlines said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

The circumstances behind the plane's disappearance remain unclear and recovery of wreckage from the plane could provide clues as to why it diverted so far from its path.

"I have great confidence they [the authorities] will find a floating debris field and that becomes the starting point," John Cox, CEO at Safety Operating Systems and a former U.S. Airways pilot told CNBC.

Map showing possible route taken by missing MH370 flight

"Once we have established the floating debris field that is positively attached to the airplane, we can then take computer programs to take into account the forces of wind, waves and currents and back it up in time to find the impact point most likely and then the distribution of wreckage," he added.

(Read more: Timeline of Flight MH370)

Since Australian satellite imagery cited objects in the southern Indian Ocean last week, search efforts have focused on the area. On Monday, a huge international air and sea search in the area spotted several floating objects.

But Australian authorities said on Tuesday that the search effort had been suspended for 24 hours because of bad weather conditions.

"It is difficult in these weather conditions to find debris floating around in the southern Indian ocean," Mark Binskin, the vice chief of defense in Australia, told reporters in Perth. "We hope to continue the search in coming days."

Unanswered questions

The past two weeks have seen a slew of speculation and reports on the possible fate of Flight MH370. Theories have ranged from hijacking to sabotage or possible suicide by one of the pilots. Investigators have not ruled out technical problems.

This may have slowed down MH370 search

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines executives said they would not be drawn into speculation about what happened.

"I don't want to speculate as the investigation is ongoing," Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said. "Our focus is on the families."

Talk last week about a possible fire on board the plane has been played down by experts, who say the aircraft would not have been able deviate so far from its flight path had there been a fire.

(Watch now: What diverted MH370 from its flight path?)

"What is probably more likely is human intervention of some sort, where the flight crew or flight crew under duress or other persons who commandeered the aircraft and had the technical skills to operate it directed the plane to where we think it is now," Keith Wolzinger, a member of The Spectrum Group, a defense consulting firm.

"Mechanical problems or an onboard fire mean the plan wouldn't have flown for as many hours as it apparently did," he added.

Focus is also on the plane's black box, a cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder of what happens during a flight. Black boxes carry locator beacons but these fade after 30 days.

Grieving relatives of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 leave a hotel hall at after being told the news that the plane plunged into Indian Ocean in Beijing.
Goh Chai Hin | AFP | Getty Images

Anguish and despair

In both Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, there were reports of despair, anger and frustration from the families and friends of loved ones on the missing plane.

Some of the families received a text message from Malaysia Airlines late Monday. According to a CNBC producer, the message read: "We deeply regret that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that the MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived."

(Watch now: Latest MH370 news 'probably highly reliable': Pro)

Malaysia has come under fire over the progress of the search and investigation, especially from China which had more than 150 nationals on board the plane.

A statement issued by a group reportedly representing families of Chinese passengers expressed anger towards the Malaysia authorities.

"Here, we, 154 family members, like to express our protest and condemnation to Malaysia Air, Malaysian government and Malaysian military. Give us back our relatives! Give us back our relatives! Tell the truth! Tell the truth!" the statement read.

In Beijing, angry relatives protested outside the Malaysian embassy, demanding an explanation from the airline.

Malaysia Airlines' CEO said that wherever possible, the airline had informed relatives late Monday of the latest developments in person, with text messaging used only as an additional means.

"When Malaysia Airlines receives approval from the investigating authorities, arrangements will be made to bring the families to the recovery areas if they so wish," CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said.

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott added on Tuesday that visa fees for families of the plane's passengers would be waived should they wish to come to Australia.

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