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Mar 08

CORRECTED-UPDATE 4-Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in South China Sea …


(Corrects number of Indonesians, Indians onboard after airline
issued new breakdown of nationalities)

* Malaysia Airlines flight loses contact between 1-2 hours
after takeoff

* Flight failed to check in as scheduled in Vietnamese
airspace

* Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight carrying 227 passengers and 12
crew

* Malaysia, Vietnam and China helping in search efforts

By Stuart Grudgings and Anuradha Raghu

KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 (Reuters) – A Malaysia Airlines
flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew crashed in
the South China Sea on Saturday, Vietnamese state media said,
quoting a senior naval official.

The Boeing 777-200ER flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing had
been missing for hours when Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre news quoted
Admiral Ngo Van Phat as saying he had asked boats from an island
off south Vietnam to rush to the crash site.

If the report is confirmed, it would mark the U.S.-built
airliner’s deadliest crash since entering service 19 years ago.

Malaysia Airlines had yet to confirm that the aircraft had
crashed. It said earlier in the day that no distress signal had
been given and cited early speculation that the plane may have
landed in Nanming in southern China.

Flight MH370, operating a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft,
last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles
off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement
read to a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia and Vietnam were conducting a joint search and
rescue, he said but gave no details. China has also sent two
maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to help in any
rescue, state television said on one of its microblogs.

“We are extremely worried,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
told reporters in Beijing before the Vietnamese report that the
plane had crashed. “The news is very disturbing. We hope
everyone on the plane is safe.”

The flight left Kuala Lumpur at 12.21 a.m. (1621 GMT Friday)
but no trace had been found of the plane hours after it was due
to land in the Chinese capital at 6.30 a.m. (2230 GMT Friday)
the same day.

“We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight
MH370,” Jauhari said.

Malaysia Airlines said people from at least 14 nationalities
were among the 227 passengers – at least 152 Chinese, 38
Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians,
four French and three Americans. Two infants were among the
passengers.

If it is confirmed that the plane has crashed, the loss
would mark the second fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 in
less than a year and by far the worst since the jet entered
service in 1995.

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200ER crash-landed in San
Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers and injuring
more than 180.

Boeing said it was aware of reports that the Malaysia
Airlines plane was missing and was monitoring the situation but
had no further comment. The flight was operating as a China
Southern Airlines codeshare.

An official at the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam
(CAAV) said the plane had failed to check in as scheduled at
1721 GMT while it was flying over the sea between Malaysia and
Ho Chi Minh city.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard, Jonathan Standing and
Natalie Thomas in BEIJING, Nguyen Phuong Linh in HANOI and Alwyn
Scott in NEW YORK; Writing by Paul Tait; Editing by Mark
Bendeich)

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