Malaysia Airlines hunts for missing plane, 158 passengers Chinese

2014-03-08 02:57:00 GMT2014-03-08 10:57:00(Beijing Time)  SINA.com
File picture shows a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 at Kuala Lumpur International airportFile picture shows a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 at Kuala Lumpur International airport

Malaysia Airlines said a flight carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing early Saturday, and the airline was notifying next of kin in a sign it expected the worst.

The airline said flight MH370 disappeared at 2:40 am local time (1840 GMT Friday), about two hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It had been due to arrive in Beijing at 6:30 am local time (2230 GMT Friday).

It was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, from 13 different nationalities, and 12 crew members.

China's state television said 158 of the passengers were Chinese.

"We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370 which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am earlier this morning bound for Beijing," Malaysia Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement.

The statement said the Malaysian flag carrier was working with authorities, who had launched an effort to locate the aircraft.

"Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew," Ahmad Jauhari said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members."

The plane was a Boeing 777-200. The airline's Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route passes roughly over the Indochinese peninsula.

A Malaysian Airlines spokeswoman said she could not immediately provide further details.

- 'Contact lost over Vietnam airspace' -

A report by China's Xinhua news agency said contact was lost with the plane while it was over Vietnamese airspace.

Xinhua also quoted Chinese aviation authorities saying the plane did not enter China's air traffic control sphere.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement: "We are very concerned learning this news."

"We are contacting relevant authorities and are trying to confirm relevant information."

A Beijing airport spokeswoman said the facility had activated an emergency response system. Screens at the airport indicated the flight was "delayed."

An accident would be a huge blow for the carrier, which has bled money for years as its struggles to fend off competition from rivals such as fast-growing AirAsia.

It recorded its fourth straight quarterly loss during the final three months of 2013 and warned of a "challenging" year ahead due to intense competition.

In 2012, the carrier admitted it was in "crisis", forcing it to implement a cost-cutting campaign centred on slashing routes and other measures.

In 2011, it chalked up a record 2.5 billion ringgit ($767 million) loss.

Boeing, which has been best by problems with its high-tech 787 Dreamliners put into service two years ago, including a months-long global grounding over battery problems last year, issued a brief statement on its Twitter feed.

"We?re closely monitoring reports on Malaysia flight MH370. Our thoughts are with everyone on board," it said.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has suffered few accidents in its history.

One of its jets crashed in 1977 in southern Malaysia, killing all 93 passengers and seven crew.

A smaller Twin Otter aircraft, operated by its unit MASwings, crashed upon landing in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island last October, killing a co-pilot and a passenger.

(Agencies)

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