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MH370 flight crash declared an accident, search for survivors called off

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Posted at 8:23 AM, Jan 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-29 09:47:11-05

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been officially declared an accident and the search for survivors has been called off, authorities said Thursday.

Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation released a statement that said that all 239 people aboard the Boeing 777 were now presumed dead.

"It is therefore, with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that, on behalf of the government of Malaysia, we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident," said Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation. 

The underwater search for wreckage in the Southern Indian Ocean will continue. Malaysia is pursuing criminal charges, according to Reuters.

Rahman acknowledged that the announcement would "be very difficult for the families and loved ones."

The announcement is intended to enable victims' relatives to begin the process of claiming compensation.

The announcement comes more than 10 months after MH370 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. 

The plane is believed to have crashed in the South Indian Ocean.