At least one Canadian was among the 298 people killed when a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed in eastern Ukraine, the airline says, but the identities of many of the passengers remain unclear.
Airline officials were still working late Thursday to determine the full list of who was aboard the Boeing 777, which crashed earlier in the day while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia Airlines said the dead include at least 154 Dutch citizens; 45 Malaysians, among them two infants; the crew of 15; 27 Australians; 12 Indonesians, including an infant; nine Britons; four Germans; four Belgians; three Filipinos; and the Canadian, with other identities still being confirmed.
The airline said the cause of the crash was unclear, though Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among the many to say it had apparently been shot down. Malaysia Airlines said it was in the process of notifying the next of kin.
The Canadian passenger’s identity has not been released. A statement from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, released after the news conference, said officials were still working to confirm whether a Canadian was among the dead.
“We are aware of media reports indicating that one Canadian citizen was aboard the flight. We are working with local authorities to gather more information on the situation. Consular officials stand ready to provide consular assistance to the families of the victims,” the written statement said.
Mr. Harper released a statement saying the government understands, “from reports,” that a Canadian is among the dead, offering “thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of the victims of this outrageous act.”
One unverified online report raised the notion of another Canadian connection. Based on a transcript of an unverified recording, the report suggested one of the victims may be an Indonesian from the “University of Thompson” – which left officials at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., checking their records.
TRU currently has a joint program with the Indonesian government, with three Indonesian students enrolled, but has so far found no evidence any were on the flight. “It doesn’t appear that that’s the case … we’re working on tracking down all our students,” TRU spokeswoman Diana Skoglund said Thursday evening.
The Malaysia Airlines plane appeared to break apart at altitude, with local reports and images showing its debris scattered across fields.
In a statement, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he’d spoken with counterparts in the Netherlands, Ukraine and United States. He called for a global response to the crash, though said it was too soon to say what caused it.
“An international team must have full access to the crash site. And no one should interfere with the area, or move any debris, including the black box,” the statement said, going on to express condolences to the families of those on board.
“The flight’s passengers and crew came from many different countries. But today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief.”
Mr. Harper pledged Canada’s help in the investigation of the crash, though did not specify what that might include.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird wrote on Twitter earlier Thursday that he was “horrified by reports of a Malaysian Airlines plane crashing near the Ukraine-Russia border. We are following the situation very closely.”
Canadians seeking information
Those seeking information about Canadians thought to be about the plane are being asked to call the Foreign Affairs Emergency Watch and Response Centre by calling 1-800-387-3124 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a report from Reuters