An armed pro-Russian separatist stands on part of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Picture: Maxim Zmeyev

Kuala Lumpur - There were 298 people, including 154 Dutch nationals, on board the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed in strife-torn eastern Ukraine, the carrier said on Friday.

The flight “was carrying a total number of 298 people - comprising 283 passengers including three infants of various nationalities and 15 crew of Malaysian nationality,” the airline said in an emailed statement.

There also were 43 Malaysians, including the crew and two infants, and 27 Australians, it said, updating earlier figures as the airline worked to verify passenger nationalities.

Twelve were Indonesians including an infant, nine were British, four were German, three were from the Philippines and one was Canadian.

The airline said four were Belgian, but the Belgian foreign minister said five Belgians were on board.

Malaysia Airlines said the nationalities of 41 passengers remained unconfirmed.

Air traffic control lost contact with the Boeing 777-200 around 2.15pm (12h15 GMT) near the Russian-Ukrainian border, Malaysia Airlines has said.

The flight took off from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam shortly after noon on Thursday and was supposed to land in Kuala Lumpur at around 6.10am local time on Friday.

Malaysia Airlines will send a team to Ukraine on Friday to help with the investigation.

Another plane will also be made available to grieving relatives wanting to visit the crash site, an official said.

The crash is the Netherlands' second-largest air disaster to date.

The country's largest happened in March 1977 when 238 Dutch citizens died at Tenerife in the Canary Islands when two Boeing 747s crashed with the loss of 582 lives.

The crash is a fresh blow to the flag carrier which, along with the Malaysian government, is still struggling to provide answers on the disappearance of Flight MH370 on March 8 with 239 people aboard. - Sapa-AFP