SCHIPHOL, NETHERLANDS, (AFP) - There were 298 people, including 154 Dutch nationals, on board the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed in strife-torn eastern Ukraine on Thursday, an official from the carrier said.
"There were 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board the plane," Malaysian Airlines vice-president Huib Gorter told reporters at a press conference at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport from where the doomed flight had taken off.
He gave a preliminary breakdown of the passenger's nationalities, saying: "154 were Dutch, 27 were Australian." In addition, 23 others were from Malaysia, 11 were Indonesian, six were British, four were German, another four were from Belgium, three were from the Philippines and one was Canadian.
Around 50 passengers remained unidentified, Gorter said.
Air traffic control lost contact with the Boeing 777-400 around 14:15 (12.15GMT, 8.15pm Singapore time) near the Russian-Ukrainian border, the Malaysia Airlines official said.
Flight MH17 took off from Schiphol shortly after noon and was supposed to land in Kuala Lumpur at around 6:10 am local time, Gorter said.
Malaysia Airlines will send a team to Ukraine on Friday to help with the investigation.
Another airplane will also be made available to grieving relatives wanting to visit the crash site, Gorter said.
Questioned about the cause of the plane crash, Gorter said: "At this stage we are still looking at it from the viewpoint of being an accident." Earlier, shocked and crying relatives were shielded from the press as they arrived at Schiphol to be taken to a special gathering area.
They were later escorted from the airport and taken by bus to an undetermined destination, Dutch news agency ANP reported.
The crash is the Netherlands' second-largest air disaster to date.
The country's largest disaster happened in March 1977 when 238 Dutch citizens died in Tenerife when two Boeing 747s crashed with the loss of 582 lives.