Year after MH370: Maldive islanders say they saw low-flying jet

One year after the incident, mystery continues to surround the fate of Malaysian Flight MH370 that disappeared from air traffic control radars after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a flight to Beijing.

Analysis of satellite data have revealed it flew for more than six hours after contact was lost, and suggested it crashed into the southern Indian Ocean after running out of fuel.

Now, it emerges that inhabitants of the remote Maldive island of Kudahuvadhoo in the southern area of the Indian Ocean have reported seeing a low-flying passenger jet on the morning the plane disappeared, according to newspaper reports over the weekend.

"I've never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We've seen seaplanes, but I'm sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly," said one resident.

But still, in an incident probably unique in the history of civil aviation, there remains no evidence to indicate what caused Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to vanish or where it ended up, despite the most expensive search operation in history.

"It's not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too," the islander said.

The Maldives is not in the search area, but acoustic scientists suggest that the plane could have crashed close to the Maldives after a high energy sound was measured in the area around the time the plane is believed to have crashed.

Malaysia's handling of the disaster has been criticized from the start and an interim investigation report released Sunday uncovered a dud beacon battery and more potential missed opportunities to track the plane.

However, the airline said the battery on the separate cockpit voice recorder - good for 30 days once activated - was up-to-date and would have transmitted a signal once it hit water.

Australian officials have expressed cautious optimism that the plane would eventually be found, and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said Canberra, along with Malaysia and China, remained committed to the search.

So far more than 26,000 square kilometres - over 40 per cent - of the priority zone of the seabed where the plane likely went down has been searched using specialist equipment.

Malaysia formally declared missing flight MH370 an "accident" and its passengers and crew presumed dead in January, a step that opens the door for compensation payments but which was met with angry scepticism by distraught relatives.

Many desperate MH370 relatives have continued to insist that the plane may have landed safely somewhere, and Malaysian authorities and the airline had until now refrained from drawing firm conclusions about its fate.

"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," civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a televised announcement.

"All 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives," he added.

Many relatives accuse the Malaysian government and its flag carrier of a chaotic and bungled response to the plane's initial diversion, which allowed the jet to disappear, and a subsequent cover-up. Those charges are strenuously denied by the airline and the country's authorities.