China on Saturday said it had deployed two search and rescue vessels to the South China Sea in search of the Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines flight reported missing early on Saturday.
The Boeing 777-200, carrying 239 passengers, lost contact with air traffic control two hours after it had departed from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am local time (10.11 pm IST on Saturday night), the airline said in a statement.
The aircraft was due to arrive in Beijing at 6.30 am local time on Saturday morning (4 am IST). Early reports said the aircraft was flying over Vietnam when it lost contact.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters here the Chinese government was "worried" about the fate of the aircraft, and had instructed authorities and its missions to deploy an emergency mechanism.
Relatives of passengers faced a harrowing wait for news at Beijing's Terminal 3 international airport on Saturday morning.
Chuang Ken Fei, a Malaysian national, said those waiting at the airport had initially been told "the flight did not take off", raising questions whether relatives had been provided correct and timely information by airline officials.
"Staff at the airport told me the flight did not take off, but I can see from my mobile application that the aircraft was in the air," he told the official Xinhua news agency.
Beijing airport authorities said they had formed an emergency group to deal with the incident, with relatives of passengers taken to a nearby hotel while they awaited further news.