Malaysian authorities on Thursday said that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was an "accident" and presumed that all passengers and crew are dead.
The declaration means that families of the missing may now proceed with the grim task of conducting funerals for their loved ones, and proceeding with life insurance and compensation claims.
Almost 11 months after the plane vanished with 239 people on board, the declaration comes despite searchers not having found a single piece of wreckage, a single drop of oil, or a solitary life jacket.
The Malaysian government said the "search for survivors" had ended, although the search for the plane's wreckage would continue. "The definition of the term 'accident' includes 'the aircraft is missing'" according to international aviation law, Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement.
One hundred fifty-two of the passengers were Chinese, most of them local. A number of Beijing-based expatriates were also aboard, including most members of a French family, a couple traveling without their children, and a businessman on his final flight to Beijing before completing a move Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian and Australian officials have been searching for wreckage in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,800 kilometers west of Perth, Australia. Satellite pings indicate the plane may have taken this course and continued until it ran out of fuel or was forced down.
The plane's disappearance has become the greatest aviation mystery of the 21st century, and will remain so until its wreckage is discovered and its deviation from the flight plan explained.
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