Missing AirAsia QZ8501: White House monitoring situation

Missing AirAsia QZ8501: White House monitoring situation
A sign informing the next-of-kins of passengers of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 from Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore is seen next to an information counter at Changi Airport in Singapore.

WASHINGTON - The White House said it was monitoring the situation surrounding an AirAsia plane that disappeared traveling from Indonesia to Singapore and that President Barack Obama was briefed on the matter.

The Airbus A320-200 with 162 people on board left Juanda international airport in Surabaya in east Java at 5:20 am Sunday and had been expected to arrive in Singapore at 8:30 am (0030 GMT).

"The president has been briefed on AirAsia Flight 8501 and White House officials will continue to monitor the situation," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said late Saturday.

Malaysia-based AirAsia said the pilot of flight QZ8501 had requested "deviation" from the its flight plan because of bad weather, and that a search and rescue operation was underway.

Indonesia's air transportation director general Djoko Murjatmodjo told AFP the plane was carrying seven crew and 155 passengers -- 138 adults, 16 children and a baby.

Local broadcaster MetroTV reported that the passengers included 149 Indonesians, three South Koreans, including a baby, one Briton and one Malaysian and one Singaporean.

Obama and his family are on vacation in his home state of Hawaii for the holidays.

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