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Aviation

Bad weather forces suspension of search for Malaysian airliner, prompts protests

Bad weather has forced a halt to the search for the wreckage of a Malaysian jet that went missing more than a fortnight ago. The news prompted relatives of the missing to march on the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.

Missing Malaysian Airlines flight raises new questions

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) announced on Tuesday that it had suspended the search for whatever remains of flight MH370, due to gale force winds, rough seas and low-hanging clouds over the area where satellites have spotted suspected debris from the aircraft.

"AMSA has undertaken a risk assessment and determined that the current weather conditions would make any air and sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew," a statement issued by the authority said.

Australian navy supply ship HMAS Success, which had been sent to investigate the latest sighting, around 2,500 kilometers (1,562 miles) southwest of Perth, failed to recover any objects, before being forced to leave due to the worsening weather conditions.

The search was initially suspended for a period of 24 hours, but Australia's deputy prime minister, Warren Truss, warned that there was no indication that the weather would improve anytime soon and that "it may be some time before we can get aircraft back into the search."

Truss added that the operation had entered a new phase and Australia would "expect some direction and requests from the Malaysian government in due course about what action they want to be taken from now on."

Outrage among family members

Following the announcement of the suspensed search, dozens of family members marched to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. Estimates put the number of protesters between 100 and 200 people.

Distraught relatives of the missing on board MH370, most of whom were Chinese, shouted "We want the truth!" and "Return our relatives!"

News agency AFP reported that clashes had broken out between police and some of the demonstrators attempting to rush the gate. There were no reports of injury.

Flight 'ended in ocean'

The temporary suspension of the search for what remains of flight MH370 comes a day after Malaysia's prime minister announced that new satellite data indicated that the flight - and the 239 passengers and crew on board - had almost certainly crashed into the sea.

"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," Najib told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

He said this conclusion was based on fresh analysis of satellite data from Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch and Inmarsat, a satellite telecommunications company.

Some of the relatives who attended the press conference, were visibly overcome with distress upon hearing of the Malaysian officials' conclusion.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 went missing on March 8, while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

pfd/jr (AFP, AP, dpa)

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