More than 60 people are feared dead after a plane crashed off the coast of Indonesia shortly after take-off on Saturday afternoon.
Flight SJ182 took off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and then plunged more than 10,000 feet into the sea. Officials said the plane was carrying 50 passengers – including ten children – and 12 crew. On Saturday night, a large-scale search operation was underway to hunt for wreckage of the plane, which is sank in 30 metre- deep waters around the island of Lancang, part of the Thousand Islands chain just north of Jakarta.
The plane was heading on a 90-minute domestic flight to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island At the time of the crash, local fishermen spoke of hearing a thunderous explosion. When they reached the area, they discovered pieces of wreckage from the airliner.
“The plane fell like lightning into the sea and exploded in the water,” one fisherman told the BBC’s Indonesian service. “It was pretty close to us, the shards of a kind of plywood almost hit my ship.”
Body parts and pieces of passengers’ clothing were also floating in the water. Meanwhile, passengers’ relatives and next of kin gathered at Jakarta and Pontianak airports, many of them in tears.
Among those waiting at Pontianak Airport was father-of-three Yaman Zai, who had moved there from Jakarta for work last year. His wife and children, who had remained in Jakarta, were on the flight to meet him for a holiday, having not seen him for nearly a year because of the Covid lockdown.
“They are my wife and three children, including my newly born baby”, he told the local tribunnews.com. “My last contact was around 13:30 which my wife responded that the kids were so excited.”
He said he had arrived at the airport well in time for the flight’s arrival and then grown worried when there was no news of the plane landing. Eventually he saw TV reports that the plane had had gone missing.
“Did I kill my family?” he asked. “I sent them here to get fun.”
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, has a chequered record on transport safety, with numerous air and sea accidents over the years blamed on aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety rules. In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air also crashed taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
SOURCE: Telegraph and AGENCIES