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Malaysia Airlines Flight To Beijing Goes Missing; 4 Americans, Including Infant On Board

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people en route to Beijing has gone missing over the South China Sea.

The Boeing 777-200 aircraft, which was headed from Kuala Lumpur, had 227 passengers — including two infants — and 12 crew members on board, the airline said in a statement obtained by CBS News.

Officials said there were four Americans on board the flight, including an infant, 1010 WINS reported.

“Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew,” the airlines’ group chief executive officer, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said in a statement. “Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members.”

Vietnamese media said late Friday Eastern time that authorities have detected signals from the missing plane.

Website VN Express said a Vietnamese search and rescue official reported that the signals were detected from about 120 nautical miles (140 miles) southwest of Vietnam’s southernmost Ca Mau province.

Lai Xuan Thanh, director of Vietnam’s civil aviation authority, said that the plane was over the sea and bound for Vietnamese airspace but air traffic officials in the country were never able to make contact.

All countries in the possible flight path of the missing aircraft were performing a “communications and radio search”, said John Andrews, deputy chief of the Philippines’ civil aviation agency.

Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday local time – or 11:41 a.m. Friday Eastern time, according to a statement from the airline, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.

The route would take the aircraft from Malaysia across to Vietnam and China. Air traffic control in Subang lost contact with it over Vietnam, about two hours into the flight.

It was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. Saturday local time, or 5:30 p.m. Friday Eastern time the same day, CBS News reported.

The airline said it was working with authorities who activated their search and rescue team to locate the aircraft, 1010 WINS reported.

The airline said on its website that there had been speculation that the aircraft had landed at Nanming. It said late Friday eastern time it was working to verify the authenticity of the report.

At Beijing’s airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather to a hotel about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the airport to wait for further information, and provided a shuttle bus service.

Zhai Le was waiting for her friends, a couple who were on their way back to the Chinese capital on the flight. She said she was very concerned because she hadn’t been able to reach them.

A woman wept aboard the shuttle bus while saying on a mobile phone, “They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good!”

Photos from the airport in Beijing depict distraught family and friends who gathered to wait for updates from the airline, Sloan reported.

Malaysia Airlines said there were passengers of 14 different nationalities on board, including 152 Chinese nationals, plus one infant; 38 Malaysian nationals; 12 Indonesian nationals; seven Australian nationals; three French nationals; two New Zealand nationals; two Ukrainian nationals; two Canadian nationals; one Russian national; one Italian national; one Taiwanese national; one Netherlands national; one Austrian national; and four American nationals, plus one infant.

CEO Yahya said the 53-year-old pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, has more than 18,000 flying hours and has been flying for Malaysia Airlines since 1981. The first officer, 27-year-old Fariq Hamid, has about 2,800 hours of experience and has flown for the airline since 2007.

Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200 jets in its fleet of about 100 planes. The state-owned carrier last month reported its fourth straight quarterly loss.

The 777 has not had a fatal crash in its 20-year history until the Asiana crash in San Francisco in July 2013.

Malaysia Airlines’ last fatal incident was in 1995, when one its planes crashed near the Malaysian city of Tawau, killing 34 people.

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