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Malaysia Airlines loses contact with plane carrying 239 people

Malaysia Airlines loses contact with plane carrying 239 people

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AFP reports that a Malaysia Airlines flight headed from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing this afternoon, having lost contact with air traffic control. The Boeing 777-200 is said to be carrying 239 passengers. According to the airline, Flight MH370 left Malaysia shortly after midnight local time, only to disappear a few hours later. It was meant to land in China at 6:30 Saturday morning local time.

"Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft," said the airline in a prepared statement on Facebook. An image provided by FlightAware shows the craft last tracked in southern Asia:

Update 8:49pm ET: Malaysia Airlines issued a new statement online saying it is in the process of alerting the families and next-of-kin of the passengers aboard the lost flight.

Update 9:20pm ET: Malaysia Airlines vice president of operations control Fuad Sharuji appeared on CNN's AC360 earlier this evening to state, "At the moment we have no idea where this aircraft is right now." Chinese state television reports that there haven't been any reports of any aircraft crashing into Chinese waters. Meanwhile, state news agency Xinhua reported that radar contact was lost while the flight was in Vietnamese airspace.

Update 10:31pm ET: Malaysia Airlines issued a new statement reiterating that they've lost all contact with flight MH370. According to Breaking News, the carrier states that the passengers aboard the aircraft came from 14 countries, including the US, France, and Indonesia.

Update 1:28am ET: According to The Wall Street Journal, Vietnam's state media says that the airliner crashed off of Vietnam's coast, about 176 miles offshore. The information reportedly comes from a statement by Vietnam's Navy.

Update 8:18am ET: The Wall Street Journal reports that Vietnamese officials have spotted two large oil slicks off Vietnam's coast. "We have sent vessels to the site of the suspected oil spills and they are expected to reach the site tonight. It’s very likely that this is the sign of the missing plane," said Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnam People’s Army, during a live broadcast. Recovery of the plane may prove to be difficult going forward. Ongoing coverage of the flight's disappearance now links it to Air France flight 447, which crashed over the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. It took two years to salvage that aircraft's black box recorders.

Update 3/9 10:40am ET: With no new leads on the location of the lost Boeing 777-200, Malaysia is stepping up its efforts to find flight MH370. While there is no sign of debris, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a briefing that Malaysia is working with international intelligence agencies, which have deployed dozens of ships to locate the plane. "At the same time, our own intelligence have been activated and, of course, the counter-terrorism units from all the relevant countries have been informed," he said. He added that the plane may have deviated from its flight path, and terrorism isn't feared at the moment.

Update 3/9 9:30pm ET: Officials investigating the disappearance of the plane now believe it may have disintegrated while in flight, a senior source has told Reuters. "The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet," the source said. Had the plane descended intact and broken up on impact with water, officials would expect to find a concentrated arrangement of debris. The news comes soon after Vietnam reported a possible sighting of wreckage from the plane off its coast.

Some have questioned whether the plane suffered an attack while in flight after it was discovered two passengers were found to be using stolen Austrian and Italian passports to travel. Interpol said that it had also uncovered more "suspect passports" belonging to passengers on board, but did not clarify exactly how many.

When asked about the possible cause of the suspected disintegration, Reuters' source said there was no evidence yet of foul play, and the plane could have crashed due to mechanical problems.

Regular updates will be provided about the fate of the aircraft.