Search and Rescue for Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines aircraft

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Malaysia, Vietnam, China and Philippines launched searches for a Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines (MAS) aircraft with 239 people on board including two infants. MH370 went missing twelve hours ago (2.40am local time) after the aircraft lost contact with air traffic controllers.

Vietnamese’s online news site, Tuoi Tre, has claimed that the aircraft crashed in the waters between Vietnam and Malaysia, about 120 nautical miles from Kota Bharu, Malaysia, when the last signal was detected.  MAS has yet to confirm the crash.

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The Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said in a press conference, “But since that information came from the Vietnamese navy I have asked our navy to contact their counterparts immediately.”

The Malaysian authorities dispatched a plane, two helicopters and four vessels to search seas off its east coast in the South China Sea. China sent two rescue ships to South China Sea while the Philippines said it was sending three navy patrol boats and a surveillance plane to help rescue efforts.

“This flight was a code share with China Southern Airlines. We are working with authorities that have activated their search and rescue team to locate the aircraft. There was no indication of any distress signal from the aircraft,” Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari told reporters.

Despite regional tension on competing territorial claims between China and Philippines, all have came together in search of the missing Boeing flight.

“In times of emergencies like this, we have to show unity of efforts that transcends boundaries and issues,” said Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, commander of the Philippine military’s Western Command.

MAS said there was no distress signal or other indications of trouble before they lost contact with the now vanished aircraft. The last signal detected from the aircraft was 120 nautical miles southwest of Vietnam’s southernmost Ca Mau province.

According to Vietnamese authorities, the aircraft was preparing to be transferred to the Ho Chin Minh air traffic control but the Vietnamese air traffic controllers were unable to make contact with the pilots before it vanished.

The aircraft is due to arrive in Beijing at 6.30am local time but a Malaysian Airlines spokesperson added that if the plane were still in the air, it would have run out of fuel sometime around 8.30am (local time).

MAS has only few fatal accidents since it began operations in 1947. One of its jets crashed in 1977 in southern Malaysia, killing 93 passengers and seven crews. Last October, a smaller jet by MASwings crashed in Sabah, killing a co-pilot and a passenger.

MH370’s pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah has more than 18,000 flying hours and has been flying with MAS since 1981.

Update: Malaysia’s acting transport Minister denied rumors of plane crash.

We are doing everything we can to ensure every possible angle has been addressed,” Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein told reporters near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin said, “Do not listen to rumors that are not confirmed by MAS. This is not who can get the news out the quickest. It is about people’s lives.”