Vietnam launched a search effort Saturday after it said a Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 239 people lost contact with traffic controllers near its airspace, as fears mounted over the plane’s fate.
Regional authorities still could not locate Flight MH370 nearly 12 hours after it lost contact with air traffic control on an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The airline has said the plane relayed no distress signal or other indications of trouble.
“The plane lost contact near Ca Mau province airspace as it was preparing to transfer to Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control,” a statement posted on the official Vietnamese government website said.
The plane’s signal was never transferred to Ho Chi Minh air traffic control, it added.
Ca Mau province is in southernmost Vietnam.
The ministry launched a rescue effort to find the plane, working in coordination with Malaysian and Chinese officials, the statement added.
Contact was lost at 2:40 am local time (1840 GMT Friday), about two hours after take-off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the carrier’s CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are deeply saddened this morning with the news on MH370,” he told a press conference in Malaysia.
“Our focus now is to work with emergency responders and authorities, and mobilise full support,” he added.
“And our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew, and their family members.”
The airline and Malaysian authorities were liasing with Vietnamese officials in a bid to locate the plane, he added.
The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members, Ahmad Jauhari said.
They included 153 Chinese nationals including one infant, 38 Malaysians, and 12 Indonesians.
Seven Australians also were aboard, three French nationals, four from the United States including one infant, plus passengers from several other countries.
Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record. Its worst-ever crash occurred in 1977, when 93 passengers and 7 crew perished in a hijacking and subsequent crash in southern Malaysia.
The pilot of MH370 was Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, who had flown for the airline since 1981, the carrier said.
Its first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, joined the airline in 2007.
The plane was more than 11 years old.