Over 100 dead as Indonesia plane crashes on takeoff

From Reuters: “Around 100 people are feared dead after an Indonesian Boeing 737-200 crashed into a residential area in the city of Medan on Monday just after takeoff, breaking into pieces and setting fire to homes.

The plane, operated by local carrier Mandala Airlines, had a total of 117 people on board, the airline said.

Hospital officials in Medan, capital of North Sumatra province, said some of the dead were residents on the ground.

Edi Sofyan, a spokesman for the North Sumatra government, said there were no reports yet of any survivors. He added that the governor of the province was on board the doomed flight.

“The plane crashed into houses and landed on the road. It is now in pieces. I expect the death toll to be around 100,” said Sofyan.

Live television pictures showed fierce flames licking at the wreckage. Cars and homes were also on fire and plumes of thick black smoke rose into the air.

“At least dozens are dead,” said Roni, an emergency room nurse at Medan’s Adam Malik hospital.

“Ambulances keep going back and forth bringing the victims, who are both passengers and residents. Some are still alive, some are dead,”

Medan is Indonesia’s third biggest city and is also the main gateway for aid into tsunami-hit Aceh province.

Speaking at a news conference in Jakarta, a Mandala official, Asril Tanjung, said the plane had been made in 1981 and was fit for eight more years of flying.

The plane came down 500 metres from the runway in Medan, Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa told El Shinta radio station. It was enroute to Jakarta.

Mandala Airlines is one of Indonesia’s oldest private carriers.

Indonesia’s worst air crash occurred in Sept. 1997, when a Garuda Airbus A-300B4 crashed in a mountainous area near Medan, killing all 222 passengers and 12 crew on board.

(Reporting by Achmad Sukarsono, Tomi Soetjipto, Ade Rina) “


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