China-bound Malaysian Airlines jet vanishes with 239 aboard

Malaysia Plane
This screengrab from flightradar24.com shows the last reported position of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, Friday night March 7, 2014. The Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact over the South China Sea on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still hadn’t located the jetliner several hours later. (AP Photo/flightradar24.com)

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Southeast Asian nations dispatched ships and planes to scour the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam on Saturday in search of a missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared with 239 people on board.

Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday morning, but vanished off radar screens less than an hour later. As night fell in the region, there still was no sign of the missing jet — and increasing likelihood that it had crashed into the sea.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said there was no indication that the pilots had sent a distress signal, suggesting that whatever happened to the plane occurred quickly and possibly catastrophically.

Two-thirds of the plane’s passengers were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

At Beijing’s airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather at a nearby hotel to wait for further information, and provided a shuttle bus service. A woman wept aboard the bus while saying on a mobile phone, “They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good.”

Relatives and friends of passengers were escorted into a private area at the Lido Hotel, and reporters were kept away. A man in a gray hooded sweatshirt later stormed out complaining about a lack of information. The man, who said he was a Beijing resident but declined to give his name, said he was anxious because his mother was on board the flight with a group of 10 tourists.

“We have been waiting for hours and there is still no verification,” he said.

The plane was last detected on radar at 1:30 a.m. (1730 GMT Friday) around where the South China Sea meets the Gulf of Thailand, authorities in Malaysia and Vietnam said.

KUALA LUMPUR/HANOI, March 8 (Xinhua) — No signs have been found that a missing Malaysia Airlines flight, carrying 239 people, has crashed, Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said here Saturday.

He said no sign of any plane wreckage has been found, denying earlier media reports that the plane had crashed south of an island off Vietnam. Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said that the Malaysian aircraft had crashed into waters off Vietnam’s southern Phu Quoc Island.

“We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane, and doing everything we can to ensure every possible angle has been addressed,” Hishamuddin told reporters near Kuala Lumpur International Airport. “Please do not speculate about the fate of MH370 as all these claims and assumptions must be verified first.”

“Since the report mentioned the Vietnamese navy, we need to verify that with them,” he said, adding that he had already requested the military to contact its Vietnamese counterpart.

In this video, Malaysia’s acting transport minister Seri Hishammuddin spoke to press in Kuala Lumpur and denied those reports. This is the full press conference held by Seri Hishammuddin in Kuala Lumpur. He speaks in English and Malay. 

China has launched a search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysian flight scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Saturday morning, despite Malaysian authorities denying the crash at a press conference on Saturday.

Malaysian Airlines said that no signs had been found that the missing flight, carrying 239 passengers, had crashed, according to a press conference given by China Area of Malaysia Airlines on Saturday in Beijing.

The Malaysian Ministry of Transport also said no sign of any plane wreckage was found and denied earlier media reports that the plane had crashed south of an island off Vietnam.

Chinese authorities launched an emergency response Saturday morning. Two maritime rescue ships were sent out early Saturday morning to the South China Sea to help search for the missing aircraft.

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged emergency measures over the missing Malaysian flight on Saturday.

Xi ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Chinese embassies and consulates to strengthen contact with departments of relevant countries and pay close attention to the search and rescue work for the plane.

All-out efforts must be made for any emergency treatment necessary in the aftermath of the incident, Xi said in his instruction.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also asked relevant departments to confirm the detailed information of the Chinese passengers and work together with Malaysia and Vietnam to carry out emergency rescue and deal with the aftermath.

The Chinese Ministry of Transport announced the launch of the emergency response, and would actively coordinate with domestic authorities as well as maritime rescue authorities and civil aviation administrations in Malaysia and Vietnam.

“The Chinese Marine Search and Rescue Center is keeping in touch with relevant departments in China as well as the search and rescue organizations from Vietnam and Malaysia and they are working together to evaluate the situation. Since early this morning, professional rescue teams of our ministry, including ships and planes, have been standing by. They can be launched at any time,” said Zhou Min, deputy director of Control Center of the Chinese Transport Ministry.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi also called an emergency meeting Saturday afternoon for further updates on the incident.

Flight MH370 was carrying 239 people, including 12 crew members and 227 passengers, with two infants from the United States and China.

There were 153 Chinese passengers from the mainland, and one from Taiwan on board the flight.

Contact had been lost with the flight at 01:00 Beijing time on Saturday, China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) confirmed on Saturday.

The Boeing 777-200 aircraft left the Malaysian capital at 00:41 Beijing time on Saturday, and was expected to land in Beijing at 06:30 the same day, according to Malaysia Airlines.

The Malaysia Airlines plane crashed into the waters off Vietnam’s southern Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported, quoting Rear Admiral Ngo Van Phat, political commissar of the Fifth Naval Region.

According to the reports, the flight was piloted by Captain Zahaire Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysian man. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981.

Copyright CCTV

This photo provided by Laurent Errera taken Dec. 26, 2011, shows the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared from air traffic control screens Saturday, taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact with air traffic control early Saturday morning, March 8, 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still hadn't located the jetliner several hours later. (AP Photo/Laurent Errera)
This photo provided by Laurent Errera taken Dec. 26, 2011, shows the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared from air traffic control screens Saturday, taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact with air traffic control early Saturday morning, March 8, 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still hadn’t located the jetliner several hours later. (AP Photo/Laurent Errera)