Rescuers found the smoldering wreckage of an Indonesian jetliner that crashed into mountains during a storm, and officials said 90 people were killed and that 12 survived the country’s second major transportation disaster in days.
The Boeing 737-400 sent out two distress signals half way through its two-hour flight on Monday from the main island of Java to Sulawesi, a large island in the north-east of the sprawling archipelago, and then lost contact with authorities.
Search and rescue teams arriving at the crash site on Sulawesi’s western coast early on Tuesday found the charred remains of Adam Air’s flight KI-574 and scores of bodies, said police Chief Colonel Genot Hariyanto.
”The plane is destroyed and many bodies are around there,” he said.
Weeks of seasonal rains and high winds in Indonesia have caused several deadly floods, landslides and maritime accidents, including the sinking of a ferry in the Java Sea just before midnight on Friday that left at least 400 people dead or missing. The passenger ship capsized about 100km south-west of the Adam Air plane crash.
Ninety people on board the Adam Air plane were killed, said the airline’s spokesperson Hartono, who goes by a single name, but 12 people are believed to have survived though their condition was not known.
Rescue workers at the scene were trying to evacuate the survivors, other officials said.
Hundreds of people gathered at airport in Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi province and the doomed aircraft’s destination.
Some collapsed when they heard the news 90 people had died, while others angrily banged on the door of the Adam Air office there, demanding information, witnesses said.
”I have heard on the television that 12 people survived, I just hope that one of them is my father,” said Ridwan Lamani.
Justin Tumurang’s twin sister was on the plane, which was carrying six crew and 96 passengers, including 11 children ”Being a twin, we share almost every feeling. I felt something was not right, and it grew worse. Now I feel pain,” she said.
Three of those on board were American citizens, the United States embassy said. There were no other known foreigners on board.
With more than 17 000 islands, boats are one of the main modes of transportation in Indonesia. But people are increasingly taking to the skies, thanks in part to the emergence of budget airlines.
Adam Air is one of at least a dozen that have emerged in the country since 1999, when the industry was deregulated. The rapid expansion has led to cheap flights to scores of destinations around the sprawling nation, but has raised some safety concerns, since many of the airlines lease planes that are decades old and maintenance is reportedly poor.
There have been several deadly crashes in recent years.
National aviation chief Ichsan Tatang said the plane involved in Monday’s disaster was 17 years old, had flown 45 371 hours and passed its last inspection on December 25.
But the airline has come under fire in the past.
Last year, an Adam Air jetliner lost all communication and navigation systems for four hours during a flight between the Indonesian capital Jakarta and Makassar on Sulawesi Island, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing at a small provincial airport.
A day later, the plane flew to a regional airport with proper maintenance facilities without being given the go-ahead by aviation authorities, a major violation of national and international safety rules.
Adam Air, which began operations in 2003, was founded by Agung Laksono, the speaker of Indonesia’s House of Representatives and the company’s chairperson. – Sapa-AP