MH370 verdict reached
Updated: 2015-01-30 07:53
By Xu Wei and Peng Yining(China Daily USA)
Clockwise from top: A family member of a passenger cries in Beijing, demanding that the Malaysian government continues searching for the aircraft. Intan Maizura Othman, wife of flight attendant Mohamed Hazrin Hasnan, holds their son Mohamed before a news conference in Putrajaya, which was later cancelled. Premier Li Keqiang expresses deep sorrow during a news conference in Beijing. Wu Zhiyi / China Daily and Reuters
Plane's disappearance declared an accident, with all 239 on board presumed to have been killed
The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was officially declared an accident on Thursday under international aviation rules, according to Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation.
All 239 passengers and crew members are presumed to have lost their lives, said Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of the department.
Despite search efforts made over the past 327 days, the plane has not been found.
Thursday's announcement will allow families of the passengers to obtain assistance through compensation.
Shortly after the Malaysian announcement, Premier Li Keqiang said it is a difficult moment for all involved.
He urged Malaysia to locate the bodies and wreckage "by all possible means" and fulfill its commitment to compensate the families and deliver an investigation report.
"The Chinese government shares the deepest sorrow, and our sympathy goes to the next of kin," Li said.
"The government, other governments involved in the tragedy and international organizations have done their best over the past year to find the plane and comfort the families," he said.
Li made the statement at a news conference with visiting French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Beijing, after the two held talks.
The plane disappeared on March 8 last year on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It carried 12 crew members and 227 passengers, including 154 Chinese citizens. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the flight deck about an hour after the plane took off.
The Malaysian government emphasized that the search for the flight remains a priority and said Malaysia Airlines is ready to proceed with the compensation process for passengers' next of kin.
Beijing lawyer Zang Hongliang said lawyers are preparing to discuss compensation with the airline, since the disappearance has been declared an accident by Malaysia.
"Once an accident has been declared officially, the compensation process can be started," said Zang, deputy director of a legal team representing dozens of relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the flight.
Zang said the team has begun to collect evidence and interview relatives.
Last year, the airline gave relatives payments of $5,000 and $50,000 in prepaid compensation for each passenger. Some relatives accepted the compensation, but others refused.
"Counsoling the families of MH370 passengers is another priority for the Chinese government," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement, adding officials at various levels have paid visits to the relatives of the Chinese passengers. A reception office had been set up to help the families and local working groups.
Thousands of government personnel and volunteers worked day and night to provide legal advice, medical aid, psychological counselling and other services to the families, she added.
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Luo Wangshu, Zhao Xinying and Zhao Yinan contributed to this story.