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Indonesia rescuers comb crash site for more bodies

INDONESIAN rescuers were looking for more bodies today in the charred wreckage of a military plane after more than 100 people died when the aircraft crashed in East Java a day earlier, an official said.

The C-130 Hercules aircraft carrying military personnel and their families struck several homes on the ground, bursting into flames and scattering debris across a wide area, in the latest of a series of disasters in a country with a poor air safety record.

Air force spokesman Bambang Sulistyo said 101 people had died, including two villagers on the ground at the crash site, while 15 were injured. Another air force official said that rescuers were still trying to retrieve more bodies.

"It's estimated that there are still three stuck inside the plane wreckage," said Major Sutrisno, who goes by one name like many Indonesians, adding that the number of passengers on the plane was now put at 112, up from 110 estimated earlier.

Authorities were also examining whether the number of passengers could have been even higher, he said. Passengers are frequently not documented in Indonesia's over-burdened transport system.

The condition of the 15 in hospital was described as stable by Rustam Pakaya of the health ministry's crisis centre.

Sutrisno said that investigators had not yet found anything pointing towards a possible cause of the crash.

"On the condition of the plane, it was fit to fly and the weather was clear. It was all fine," he said.

A military plane carrying 13 bodies and relatives of victims had left Magetan on Thursday morning to fly to Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua for burial, Elshinta radio reported.

Agus Setyobudi, whose brother Agus Indra Kurniawan died in the crash, said his funeral would be held in Malang, East Java, later on Thursday.

"It was my brother's fate to die in this accident. The plane was checked before it took off and it all seemed fine but later it turned into a disaster," he said. TV footage later showed the his brother's coffin draped in an Indonesian flag and arriving to a military escort at Malang airport.


The plane had crashed on its landing approach to the Iswahyudi air force base in East Java.

It had been on a regular flight from Jakarta to the Iswahyudi air base in Magetan to transport military personnel and their families. It had been due to fly on to Sulawesi and Papua.

Some eyewitnesses said on Wednesday that one of the wings of the plane had sheared off and objects had rained down from the stricken aircraft built in the 1980s before it crashed.

"I heard a thunderous sound, like a car roaring past. I looked out and a huge plane had crashed into a clump of bamboo. The left wing landed in front of my house," an eyewitness told Reuters on Wednesday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has urged people not to jump to conclusions before an investigation is completed and called for extra measures to ensure flight safety on military missions has the highest priority.

Indonesia has a poor record of air safety and maintenance and has suffered a string of deadly accidents in recent years affecting both commercial and military aircraft.


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