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UPDATE 6 — Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 239 missing on Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (BNO NEWS) -- A Malaysia Airlines passenger plane carrying 239 people went missing early Saturday morning while flying in Vietnam-controlled air space on a flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to the Chinese capital of Beijing, officials said, adding that a search and rescue operation was underway.

The airline said Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200 aircraft, had departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. local time on Saturday and was expected to land in Beijing at around 6:30 a.m. local time. It said Subang Air Traffic Control in Malaysia lost contact with the airliner at 2:40 a.m., when it reportedly was in Vietnam-controlled airspace.

"The flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew. The passengers were of 13 different nationalities," said Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya. "Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support."

Of the 239 people on board, 227 were passengers, including two infants, and the remaining 12 were crew members. A passenger list or a list of nationalities was not immediately released by the airline, but China's state-run Xinhua news agency said 160 Chinese nationals were among those on board.

"Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft. The airline will provide regular updates on the situation," the airline said in a brief statement. It said relatives of passengers may contact +603 7884 1234 for more information.

Acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he instructed all relevant agencies, including the Royal Malaysian Air Force, to work together to locate the missing plane. "Shocked thoughts and prayers with those on board," he said. "To the family members of the passengers on board: stay calm and only get info from validated sources."

Malaysia Airlines, the flag carrier of Malaysia, has not suffered a fatal accident in more than 18 years. The most serious incident happened in December 1977 when Flight MH653 was hijacked and crashed near the town of Tanjung Kupang in the state of Johor, killing all 100 people on board.

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