Malaysia Airlines MH17 shot down, 298 dead, 27 Australians

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A Malaysia Airlines plane en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has been shot down in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, claiming the lives of 298 passengers and crew. Dutch authorities have said 27 Australians were on board.

It was originally reported that 295 passngers and crew were on board the plane. However, Malaysia Airlines has updated the figures to 283 passngers and 15 crew members.

The flight, known as MH17, was enroute to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it went down. There were 280 passengers and 15 crew members onboard.

NBC News reports senior U.S. Officials confirmed MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

A reporter for the Associated Press counted at least 22 bodies among the wreckage at the crash site. It is unclear if these casualties were on the plane or killed while on the ground.

Malaysia Airlines announced it lost contact with the flight via Twitter:

 

Popular flight-tracking website Flightaware.com showed the plane was last over Ukraine, when it disappeared from tracking. The aircraft was flying at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet when it last reported in to Flightaware.

Twitter exploded with the news in various languages, including pictures and videos of plumes of smoke. NBC News aired this video, saying they were unable to independently confirm the smoke plume is from MH17.

The area where the aircraft reportedly crashed is has seen frequent rocket attacks in recent days as part of the ongoing conflict between the Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian military officials said a military transport plane was shot at as it flew over the area earlier this week.

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