After 17 days of false leads and fruitless searches over thousands of kilometres, Malaysia Airlines and the country's authorities confirmed last night that Flight MH370 has been lost, with no survivors.
In a text message sent to relatives of the passengers and crew on the flight, Malaysia Airlines said: "We have to assume beyond reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and none of those on board survived."
It added: "We must now accept all evidence (which) suggests the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean."
The news was confirmed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at a hastily convened press conference last night.
Inmarsat, the British company that has provided satellite data indicating the plane had either flown in a northern or southern corridor, had performed further calculations on the data, using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort.
Based on the new analysis, Inmarsat and Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded that MH370 ended up in the southern corridor.
Its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth, at a "remote location, far from any possible landing sites", Mr Najib said.
"It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," he said.
Immediately after his announcement, Maira Nari, 17, the daughter of Mr Andrew Nari, the chief steward on the flight, tweeted: "I just don't know what to say... God loves you more, daddy, God loves them more."
The discovery caps a massive search operation for the plane spanning from the seas off Vietnam to the high reaches of Turkmenistan, and the southern Indian Ocean over the past 21/2 weeks.
Military aircraft and ships, as well as commercial vessels, from several countries, including Australia, China and Malaysia, have been intensely combing the waters off Perth since satellites first picked up images of possible debris in an area roughly 2,500km south-west of Perth last week.
With this latest analysis, search efforts are likely to intensify in that area to find what is left of the plane, particularly the black box which could hold crucial information on why the plane, originally bound for Beijing, mysteriously went off-course.
In recent days, several countries had reported sightings of potential debris in that region.
The latest was an Australian plane that spotted two objects, with a ship being sent to investigate, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said earlier yesterday.
"The crew on board the Orion (aircraft) reported seeing two objects, the first a grey or green circular object and the second an orange rectangular object," Mr Abbott told Parliament last evening.
The HMAS Success was in the area and attempting to recover the objects.
Earlier yesterday, a Chinese air crew reported "suspicious objects" in the area. The larger objects were "white and square".