'Six Britons' on board crashed plane

Published Thursday, 17 July 2014
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Six people from Britain were among almost 300 passengers on board a Malaysian airliner believed to have been shot down over Ukraine, airport officials have said.

'Six Britons' on board crashed plane
A firefighter at the scene of the plane crash in Ukraine. (© Getty)

Flight MH17 was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it came down in territory held by pro-Russian separatists on Thursday afternoon.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has called for an international investigation to establish exactly what happened to the Boeing 777-200, amid reports it was hit by a surface-to-air missile at 33,000ft as it was flying over the conflict zone.

The chief executive of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, Jos Nijuis, said six British nationals were known to be among the 295 people on the flight. No one survived.

He added that the nationalities of more than 90 people have yet to be identified.

There have been no reports of any Irish passengers on board the flight.

Mr Hammond held emergency talks with ministers and officials on Thursday evening. Speaking afterwards he said work is ongoing to establish the number of Britons.

"As yet we do not have any definitive information about how this incident occurred and I don't want to speculate at this stage," he continued.

"We believe that there must be a UN-led international investigation of the facts."

There were claims and counter-claims between the government in Kiev and separatist rebels in the wake of the disappearance of the airliner from radar screens.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he is "shocked and saddened" by what happened while Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko described it as a "terrorist act".

US vice president Joe Biden has said the airliner had "apparently" been shot down - although the details were unclear.

He explained: "I say 'apparently' because we don't actually have all the details. I want to be sure of what I say. Apparently, have been shot down. Shot down, not an accident. Blown out of the sky."

Airlines have responded by diverting a number of flights.

A British Airways spokeswoman said: "Our flights are not using Ukrainian airspace with the exception of our once-a-day service between Heathrow and Kiev. We are keeping this service under review but Kiev is several hundred kilometres from the incident site.

"The safety and security of our customers is always our top priority.

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic said: "Our thoughts are with all involved in the recent Malaysian Airlines incident. We are closely monitoring the situation and as a precautionary measure are re-routing a small number of flights this evening."

Airlines have announced their decision to avoid the airspace over eastern Ukraine following the disaster.

© UTV News
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