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Malaysian government says Flight 370’s final satellite ping ended over the Southern Indian Ocean

March 24, 2014 at 6:09 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s go to the latest on the Malaysian airliner missing for 17 days. Government officials finally declared what they believe happened to Flight 370. But the search for the plane itself, and for an explanation of what happened, continues. So does the anguish of the families, many of them Chinese.

Tom Clarke of Independent Television News narrates this report.

TOM CLARKE: After more than two weeks of hoping, today, all hope was dashed. Some were overcome by grief, others enraged at the intrusion into it, or at the airline they blame for their loss.

Around the time their loved ones should have arrived here in Beijing, their plane in all certainty came down in the empty ocean 6,000 miles away. Minutes later, the world learned the same.

NAJIB RAZAK, Prime Minister, Malaysia: I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.

TOM CLARKE: The new data he referred to came from engineers here at British firm Inmarsat. It reportedly shows the final satellite ping from MH370, west of Perth, Australia, flying south, meaning the plane was surely lost.

Exactly where, we still don’t know, though today there was a potential breakthrough. This Australian air force plane spotted four pieces of debris near to that scene earlier by satellite. They dropped smoke to alert others and photographed the evidence.

Based on those possible sightings, MH370 is thought to have crashed 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth, 43 degrees south of the equator. It’s an area long known to mariners as the Roaring 40s.

As these computer-generated current maps show, this is a belt of ocean known for unpredictable eddies and sudden violent storms. When Air France Flight 447 was lost in the Atlantic, it took two years to find the fuselage. With nothing but computer models of currents, submarines had to map the sea floor to locate the plane and its data recorders.