In Brief

Mystery surrounds fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

Boeing 777 carrying 227 passengers disappeared off coast of Vietnam

A MALAYSIA AIRLINES flight has crashed into the sea near Vietnam’s Tho Chu island, according to Vietnamese state media. Flight MH370, a Boeing 777 travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was carrying 227 passengers when it lost contact with air traffic control at 18:40 GMT last night. It was supposed to land in the Chinese capital at 22:30 GMT.

Malaysia, Vietnam, China and the Philippines have sent aircraft and ships to mount a search and rescue operation. Among the 14 different nationalities aboard the plane were 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians and six Australians.

Hamid Ramlan, a 56-year-old policeman living in the capital Kuala Lumpur, told AFP that his daughter, 34, and son-in-law, 24, were on the flight. "My wife is crying. Everyone is sad. My house has become a place of mourning. This is Allah's will. We have to accept it. But we will from tonight hold special prayers for Allah's help. I want to see my daughter and her husband who were on the flight to Beijing for a holiday.”

Both Malaysia Airlines and the Boeing 777 have good safety records and the weather was calm, according to the BBC’s John Sudworth. No distress signal was received.

But despite their safety record, an accident would be a huge blow for Malaysian Airlines, says AFP. The airline has been losing money for years under pressure from competitors such as Emirates and fast-growing Malaysia-based AirAsia.

Analysts have blamed poor management, government interference, and union resistance to reform of the airline.

Malaysia Airlines says it is "currently working with the authorities who have activated their search and rescue team to locate the aircraft".

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