Still no sign of missing Indonesian passenger jet

United States and Singapore air-force planes were on Thursday set to join a massive air, land and sea search for a missing Indonesian passenger jet with 102 people on board.

The Adam Air Boeing 737-400, with 96 passengers and six crew, vanished from radar screens on Monday halfway through a flight from Surabaya, on central Java island, to Manado, on the north-east tip of Sulawesi island.

Reports by officials on Tuesday that the wreckage and some survivors had been found on a remote jungle-covered mountain near Polewali in the west turned out to be false after rescue teams combed the area.

The search is now concentrating on the sea off Majene, 40km west of Polewali, as well as areas inland based on coordinates from distress signals from the plane and its last known position.

Bad weather and the rugged landscape of the mountainous island are hampering the search, officials said.

An Indonesian air-force plane taking part in the search was forced by bad weather conditions to make an emergency landing on Wednesday, the Antara news agency said.

Four navy warships carrying divers were using sonar to try to detect any plane wreckage under water, said Lieutenant Colonel Toni Syaiful, Eastern Fleet Command spokesperson.

“The four ships will search the waters the Adam Air plane was supposed to have crossed in its journey,” he told Antara.

One of the ships was diverted from the search for survivors of a ferry accident. The boat sank off Java last week.

A Singapore air-force plane with 27 personnel landed on Wednesday evening. US air-force aircraft were expected on Thursday, armed forces commander Djoko Suyanto said.

On the ground, rescue teams have been scouring the forests and hills of West Sulawesi up to the Tana Toraja regency, about 75km north-east of Polewali.

“For today [Thursday] our search will concentrate on the Tana Toraja area,” said lawmaker Abdul Hadi Jamal, one of the leaders of the parliamentary transport and communications commission, who was at Polewali to take part in search.

“One of the last [distress] signals detected was from the Rantepao area in Tana Toraja regency.
We will scour the area by air as by land it is much more difficult,” he told ElShinta radio. “We will fly there using a helicopter so we can go really low to look for a crash site.”

Rescue teams are facing problems in the search of the rugged area.

“It is mainly two problems. One is the geophysical challenges of the landscape in these areas and another problem is the weak satellite system with proper GPS [global positioning system] here,” Jamal said.

“A functional satellite navigation system is really needed in these conditions. It is a challenge to receive radio signals in this region,” he said.

Aircraft accidents are not uncommon in Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation stretching over 5 000km.—Sapa-AFP

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