A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing over the South China Sea on Saturday, prompting China to send ships to scour the water for possible wreckage.
The airline, speaking several hours after the plane had been due to land in the Chinese capital, said it was still too early so say whether the aircraft had crashed. It said there had been no distress signal and it cited early speculation that the plane may have landed in Nanming in southern China.
As news of the disappearance filtered through to distraught friends and relatives who had been waiting for the flight to arrive in Beijing, Malaysia Airline said it was still investigating and took no questions at a brief news conference.
“Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew,” the airlines’ group chief executive officer, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said in a statement. “Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members,” he said.
The airline said that the Boeing 777-200 aircraft had 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members on board.
It said the passengers were of 13 different nationalities, including 153 from China and four from the United States.
Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday local time, according to a statement from the airline. It was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m.
The plane last had contact with air traffic controllers two hours after it took off 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu, the airline said on Saturday.
Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities were working jointly on search operations in the area. China has dispatched two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to help in rescue work, state television reported.