Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777
Emergencies Ministry member works at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk regionReuters

At least 80 of the victims on board the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 were children, Ukrainian Interior Minister told reporters at the crash scene. A total of 298 people - 280 passengers, 15 crew members and three infants – were killed after the Boeing 777 was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian rebels on Thursday.

A source from the Ukrainian law enforcement authorities told Interfax-Ukraine on Thursday that the Boeing 777, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, disappeared from radar at 10,000 meters, before crashing near the city of Shakhtarsk in Ukraine's Donetsk region.

Malaysia Airlines later confirmed that they lost contact with the aircraft at 07:45pm IST (2:15pm GMT) and didn't receive a distress call. It said that 298 people, including 15 crew members and three infants, were on board the flight as opposed to earlier reports of 295 passengers.

Of the 298 people killed, 154 were Dutch, 27 Australians, 43 Malaysians (including 15 crew members and two infants), 12 Indonesians (including one infant), nine Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, one Canadian and 41 still unverified, according a statement by Malaysian Airlines. Unconfirmed reports claimed that 23 Americans and four French nationals were also on board the ill-fated airliner.

Malaysia Airlines said that it is sending a "group of caregivers and volunteers to assist the family members of the passengers" and continued, "Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members."

The airlines has also provided helpline for the families of passengers and crew: +603 7884 1234 (for Malaysia) and +31703487770 (for Netherlands).

Following the tragic incident, Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that all its European flights will be taking alternative routes avoiding the usual route, which was earlier declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Other airlines like Italy's Alitalia, Singapore Airlines, Russia's Aeroflot, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, and British Airways too would avoid the Ukrainian airspace.

American intelligence and military officials believe that the Malaysian plane was shot down using a single surface-to-air missile, according to ABC News. Blaming the Russian-trained separatists for the tragedy, Ukrainian officials said that a Russian-built surface-to-air missile could have been used to cause the crash of the aircraft. 

Aviation experts and the US intelligence are of the opinion that those responsible for Thursday's tragedy might have mistaken the civilian airliner for a military aircraft.