Weather stops plane hunt as China demands data

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 24, 2014 at 11:23 pm •  Published: March 24, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Bad weather suspended the search Tuesday for any remains of a Malaysian jetliner as China demanded information a day after Malaysia's leader said the heartbreaking conclusion was that Flight 370 had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors.

Planes and ships have been crisscrossing a remote area of ocean 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Australia, but the search was called off because of waves up to 4 meters (12 feet), high winds and heavy rain.

The suspension comes after a somber announcement late Monday by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak saying the plane had crashed in the sea, but which also left unanswered many troubling questions about why the Boeing 777, which was en route to Beijing on March 8 when it disappeared, was so far off-course.

It also unleashed a storm of sorrow and anger among the families of the jet's 239 passengers and crew — two-thirds of them Chinese.

China responded Tuesday by demanding that Malaysia turn over the satellite data used to conclude that the jet had gone down in the southern Indian Ocean.

Given that 153 of the passengers aboard Flight 370 were Chinese, the incident was a highly emotional one for Beijing. Family members of the missing passengers have complained bitterly about a lack of reliable information and some say they are not being told the whole truth.

Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng told Malaysia's ambassador to Beijing that China wanted to know exactly what led Najib to announce that the plane had been lost, a statement on the ministry's website said.

"We demand the Malaysian side to make clear the specific basis on which they come to this judgment," Xie was quoted as telling Iskandar Bin Sarudin during their meeting late Monday.

There was no immediate response from Malaysia.

The families planned to march on the Malaysian Embassy on Tuesday, and dozens of police were already outside the embassy compound.

Najib, clad in a black suit, read a brief statement on what he called an unparalleled study of the jet's last-known signals to a satellite. That analysis showed that the missing plane veered "to a remote location, far from any possible landing sites."

"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," he said.

He did not directly address the fate of those aboard, but in a separate message sent to some of the relatives of the passengers, Malaysia Airlines said that "we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived."

The conclusions were based on a more-thorough analysis of the brief signals the plane sent every hour to a satellite belonging to Inmarsat, a British company, even after other communication systems on the jetliner shut down for unknown reasons.

The pings did not include any location information. But Inmarsat and British aviation officials used "a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort" to zero in on the plane's last direction, as it reached the end of its fuel, Najib said.

In a statement, Inmarsat said the company used "detailed analysis and modelling" of transmissions from the Malaysia Airlines jet and other known flights to describe "the likely direction of flight of MH370."

Najib gave no indication of exactly where in the Indian Ocean the plane was last heard from.

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said that under international agreements governing air travel "Malaysia needs to take control" and decide how to proceed.

High waves, gale-force winds and low-hanging clouds forced the multinational search to be suspended for 24 hours Tuesday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had spoken to Najib to offer help with the ongoing search and investigation.

"What up until now has been a search, moves into a recovery and investigation phase," Abbott said. "I have offered Malaysia, as the country legally responsible for this, every assistance and cooperation from Australia."

Abbott also said Australia would waive visa fees for relatives of the passengers and crew on Flight 370 who wanted to come to Australia.

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