The Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished on March 8, 2014, was declared an "accident" by Malaysia's Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday.
"It is therefore with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident," said Malaysia civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman on television.
The designation means that all 239 passengers and crew on board are assumed dead and their families can now begin to be compensated. Malaysia's search for the missing plane — with help from China and Australia — will go on.
The search for the aircraft "remains a priority," Rahman said. The flight was headed from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it significantly deviated from its flight plan. The search eventually became focused on the ocean to the west of Australia.
"At this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident," he said. A report on the safety investigation into the plane is due for release soon, he added.
As Reuters reported:
Malaysia Airlines was ready to proceed immediately with the compensation process to the next-of-kin of the passengers on the flight, he said.
International investigators are looking into why the Boeing jet veered thousands of miles off course from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian Ocean.
Malaysia is also conducting a criminal investigation.
"Both investigations are limited by the lack of physical evidence at this time, particularly the flight recorders," said Azharuddin.