KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian officials sought Tuesday to allay rising anger in China and widespread doubts at home after their government concluded that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had plunged into the south Indian Ocean with no hope for survivors.
Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said a high-level delegation would return to Beijing on Tuesday night to meet with families of the Chinese passengers on the lost Boeing 777 jetliner. Hundreds of their relatives marched Tuesday on the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing demanding more information from Kuala Lumpur.
Top officials of Malaysia Airlines, holding their own news conference Tuesday, said that all next-of-kin relatives had been paid $5,000 and that the company was considering additional compensation.
The airliner’s chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said Malaysia Airlines was prepared to fly families to Australia but noted that the Australian government would only grant visas to relatives after evidence of the plane had been found.
Chairman Mohammed Nor Yusof, appealed to everyone to “accept the painful reality that the aircraft is now lost and that none of the passengers or crew on board survived.”
But even at home, while the reaction to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s sudden late-night announcement Monday that the flight went down was more subdued, it was far from accepting. Many Malaysians said that until authorities found airplane debris or bodies, they would not give up hope for survivors.
“This is confirmation from government, but this information is not 100 percent confirmed,” said Mohd Aizuddin, an imam at the KLIA mosque near the airport, where some Malaysia Airlines crew members routinely worship. “We still pray and hope,” he said, noting that an elderly man in his village is the grandfather of two Flight 370 passengers — a couple who were flying to Beijing on March 8 for their honeymoon.
“I will not blame my government,” the imam said, “but for normal people I understand. It’s too fast,” he said of the prime minister’s announcement.
Amid such widespread skepticism, Hishammuddin on Tuesday released some details of the satellite analysis that formed the basis of the government’s conclusion. During an evening news conference, he explained that the new information, from the British satellite firm Inmarsat, indicated that Flight 370 followed a southern path over the Indian Ocean, not northward toward Central Asia, where search crews had also been looking for airplane debris.
The data and graph released also suggested that Flight 370 plunged into a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean between 8:11 and 9:15 a.m. on the day of the flight, more than seven hours after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.
Based on this analysis, Hishammuddin said Tuesday, all further searches in the so-called northern corridor were called off so multinational crews could focus on a smaller section of the south Indian Ocean about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.
Search operations were suspended Tuesday because of strong gales and heavy swells but are expected to resume Wednesday. As many as a dozen aircraft from six countries including the United States will make sweeps over the waters to look for wreckage from Flight 370, said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
The Australian vessel Success also will return to the search area in the hopes of locating objects that were spotted by aircraft on Monday. In addition, a Chinese icebreaker and three other Chinese ships are expected to arrive in the area Wednesday, the authority said.
TRIBUNE WASHINGTON BUREAU.