Oil slick sighted in South China Sea, suggesting the aircraft may have crashed

A Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people, including five Indians, was reported to have disappeared over the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam early on Saturday, prompting a day-long, frantic, multinational rescue operation for the missing Boeing 777-200.

The aircraft disappeared from radar screens two hours after taking off from Kuala Lumpur at 10.11 pm IST on Friday night. Airline officials said it was last sighted around 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu. Even 20 hours later, there was no sign of the aircraft, which was due to arrive in Beijing at 4 a.m. IST on Saturday.

Aviation officials in Vietnam reported on Saturday evening the sighting of a 20 km-long oil slick in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, suggesting the aircraft may have crashed into the South China Sea.

But airline officials in Beijing said they were yet to pinpoint the aircraft's location or find any signs of wreckage. Malaysia deployed maritime vessels and helicopters, the Philippines put three air force planes and three ships into service and China placed on alert two maritime vessels for deployment.

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