A Malaysian airliner en route to China with 239 people on board, including five Indians, has gone missing and is presumed to have crashed today in the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam where a massive search is on.
The Boeing 777-200 Flight MH370 with 227 passengers, including two infants, from 14 different nationalities and 12 crew members disappeared at 0240 local time (23:10 IST) last night.
Malaysia Airlines said the last point of contact with the plane was approximately 120 nautical miles east of Kota Baru in the South China Sea.
The airlines group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said a search and rescue mission had been launched in the area after the aircraft lost contact.
“We have contacted both the Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities as it is actually the borderline of Malaysian airspace and Vietnam control,” he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Earlier, Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre (Youth) quoted Rear Admiral Ngo Van Phat, political commissar of the Fifth Naval Region of Vietnam, as saying that the plane had crashed.
However, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he had “no information” or confirmation on the plane’s fate. He said, he was pressing Vietnam’s navy for details.
“We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane,” he said.
According to the information obtained by the Indian Embassy in Beijing, the Indians on board were identified as Chetna Kolekar, Swanand Kolekar, Suresh Kolekar, Chandrika Sharma and Prahlad Shirsatha.
One Indian-origin Canadian Muktesh Mukherjee was also on board.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China has been informed by Vietnamese civil aviation authorities that Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore are conducting a joint search for the plane.
China has kept its aircraft on standby to locate and rescue the missing plane.
Yang Chuantang, Chinese Minister of Transport (MOT), announced the launch of the “highest-degree” emergency response mechanism, State-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Vietnam launched a search while the Philippines said it was sending three navy patrol boats and a surveillance plane.
China sent two ships.
Contact with the flight was lost along with its radar signal at 1:20 am Beijing time.
“The focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilise its full support,” Yahya earlier said.
He said the pilot of the missing aircraft, identified as Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had 18,365 hours of experience and joined the airlines in 1981.
The list of passengers on board comprised 154 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four Americans, three French, two New Zealanders, two Ukrainians, two Canadians, one Russian, one Italian, one Dutch and one Austrian.
Confusion and chaos prevailed in Beijing where the planed was due to land at 6:30 am (local time).
The relatives of 154 Chinese passengers travelling by the plane became restless and irritated with the airline as it was unable to confirm reports of its crash.
After hours of waiting, a spokesperson of the airline briefly addressed the media but could not provide any details.
The spokesperson just read out from a press statement that was already posted on the company’s Web site.
Relatives of the missing passengers were angry at the lack of information, with many having gathered for the press conference in an east Beijing hotel.
“No representatives from the air company have come to comfort us or provide updates,” a relative was quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency as saying.
“Nothing except a piece of paper reading the statement was given,” a woman in her 30s said.
Cries and tears gripped the hotel conference room. A young woman wept aloud as a female friend hugged her. An elderly mother cried with anguish over the unknown fate of her 40-year-old son. Many relatives just sat on the floor.
Many grief-stricken relatives even fainted and some were led to hotel rooms to rest.
Some said they would fly to Vietnam to look for their loved ones.
Contact Information (from Malaysia Airlines)
For family members and friends, you may contact this number for queries:
Malaysia: +603 7884 1234
Next-of-kin may head to the Support Facility Building at KLIA’s South Support Zone. For directions,
call 03 8787 1269
Malaysia Airlines updates on the crash can be accessed here.