|A Malaysian passenger plane carrying 239 people, including 227 passengers and 12 crew members, has lost contact with air traffic control after leaving Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, the carrier said Saturday. This undated file photo from the internet shows a Malaysia Airlines' Boeing 777 passenger plane. (Xinhua)|
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.
Meanwhile, the latest statement from Malaysia Airlines said the company is working with international authorities on the search and rescue mission of flight MH370, which went missing early Saturday morning.
"Our team is currently calling family members of passengers to keep them updated on the situation and our focus now is to work with the emergency responders and the authorities," the statement said. "The airline will continue to publish regular updates on the situation."
Flight MH 370, a Boeing B777-200 aircraft, was due to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m.(2230GMT), but lost contact with air traffic control after leaving Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur. Its whereabouts remain unknown nearly 11 hours after it lost contact.
An official from the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia told Xinhua there were 154 Chinese nationals on board, including one infant. According to Malaysia Airlines, the 227 passengers were of 13 different nationalities and 12 crew were on board.
Multinational rescue efforts have already been launched to try and locate the plane, with Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines contributing to search and rescue efforts. China has dispatched two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to help in rescue work for the missing aircraft.
Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer, said the missing plane made its last contact about 200 km east of the Malaysian town of Kota Baru.
"We have contacted both the Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities as it is actually the borderline of Malaysian airspace and Vietnam," he told a press conference, adding there had been no indication the plane was in distress.
"The plane lost contact near Ca Mau province airspace as it was preparing to transfer to Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control," an AFP report quoted a statement on the official Vietnamese government website as saying. Ca Mau province is in the southernmost part of Vietnam's inland territory.
Its signal never appeared to Ho Chi Minh City controllers. Vietnam's defence ministry has launched a search, the statement added.
Malaysian authorities also dispatched a plane, two helicopters and four vessels to search seas off its east coast in the South China Sea, Faridah Shuib, a spokesperson for the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, was quoted by the same report as saying.
The Philippines said it was sending three navy patrol boats and a surveillance plane to help efforts.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday urged emergency measures over the missing flight.
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.
Yang Chuantang, Chinese Minister of Transport, announced the launch of the highest-degree emergency response mechanism.
Eight ships belonging to the Nanhai Rescue Bureau and the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration are waiting for orders. An aircraft fleet is also ready to take off.
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