Kuala Lumpur/Kiev: All 295 people on board a Malaysia Airlines plane were killed today after the jet was shot down by “terrorists” over war-torn eastern Ukraine near the Russian border, nearly four months after the mysterious disappearance of MH370 in the Indian Ocean.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed that it received notification from Ukrainian Air Traffic Control that it had lost contact with Flight MH17 at 1415 GMT (8:45 IST) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
“Nearly 300 people died when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 crashed in eastern Ukraine,” an advisor to the Ukrainain Interior Minister, Anton Herashchenko, said. “It was flying at the altitude of 10,000 meters. 280 passengers and 15 crew members died,” he said in a Facebook post.
“The aircraft was shot down over Ukraine by terrorists operating a Buk surface-to-air missile system,” he said. Witnesses from the town of Torez in the rebellion-wracked Donetsk region of Ukraine told RIA Novosti news agency that the plane wreckage and dead bodies have been found in the area.
At least several dozen bodies were found scattered around the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in eastern Ukraine, witnesses said, adding the debris of the plane covered an area of about one square kilometer.
The plane disappeared from the radar and teams from the emergency services have reached the scene. Burning aircraft wreckage and bodies strewn on the ground were seen at the village of Grabovo, some 40 kms from the Russian border in an area where pro-Russian rebels are active.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed on Twitter, “Malaysian Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position of the plane was over Ukrainian airspace”. Malaysia's Star newspaper quoting sources said the plane was “shot down” while cruising at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the jetliner may have been shot down over his country's airspace. “This incident is not a catastrophe. It is a terrorist act,” he said.
Ukrainian officials have accused pro-Russian rebels of being responsible for shooting down the plane. But the press service of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic claimed the jet was downed by a missile fired from a Ukrainian air force Su-25 combat jet, a charge denied by Ukraine.
“We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky,” Poroshenko said in a statement posted on the president's website.
The plane could have been brought down by a ground-to-air missile, sources said.
“I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on his Twitter feed. “We are launching an immediate investigation,” he said as he rushed to the Kuala Lumpur airport. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also ordered a probe into accident.
A number of Ukrainian military planes have been shot down by missiles in recent weeks. Ukraine has accused Russia's military of supplying advanced missiles to the rebels, the BBC reported.
Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian officials blamed the Russian air force for shooting down one of its ground attack jets on Wednesday.
Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Russia since street protests forced former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's southeastern Crimea region and a pro-Russia separatist rebellion has been raging in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Ukrainian forces have been struggling to quell the separatist unrest. Ukraine's government has accused Russia of allowing weapons and military equipment, including tanks, to cross the border illegally into the hands of pro-Russia separatists.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “expressed deep condolences” to Malaysia's Prime Minister over the crash, a post Thursday on the Kremlin's website said. He “asked to pass the most sincere word of condolences and support to families and relatives of (the crash) victims,” the post said. Several airlines, including Lufthansa and Air France, say they will now avoid eastern Ukrainian airspace.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Airline issued a media statement confirming that it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
“Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm (Amsterdam local time) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 am (Malaysia local time) the next day. The flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew members onboard,” said the Media Statement.
"The government insists that a comprehensive international investigation into the crash of an Armed Forces An-26 aircraft downed in Luhansk region on July 14, the crash of an Armed Forces Su-25 aircraft downed in Donetsk region on July 16, and the crash of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 [on July 17] be conducted with the participation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL)," the press service said.
As it happened:
-Turkish Airlines says its flights will avoid Ukrainian airspace after Malaysian Airlines crash
-Ukraine's government sets up commission to probe into Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crash
-Malaysia Airlines confirms it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT)
-Emergencies ministry official on site says body parts scattered around up to 15 km from crash site, at least 100 bodies seen: Tweets Reuters.
-Ukrainian armed forces not involved in Malaysian passenger plane being brought down: Interfax quoting presidential press service.
-“I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation;” Tweets Mohd Najib Tun Razak, Malaysian PM.
-Ukraine Prime Minster orders investigation into Malaysian "airplane catastrophe", says plane was en route from Amsterdam: Sources.
-Reuters correspondent on the scene in Eastern Ukraine sees burning wreckage of air plane, bodies on ground: Tweets Reuters.
-Last confirmed position of aircraft was over Ukrainian airspace, tweets Malaysia Airlines.
-Malaysian plane was brought down by a ground-to-air missile: says Interior Ministry adviser.
-Malaysian plane with 295 passengers on board crashes in Ukraine near Russian border.