149 killed as plane crashes in Indonesia

Published September 6, 2005

MEDAN (Indonesia), Sept 5: A domestic airliner crashed in a busy residential area of Indonesia’s third biggest city just after takeoff on Monday, killing 102 people aboard and 47 local residents in an inferno on the ground. Officials said 15 passengers in the tail section of the Mandala Airlines Boeing 737-200, including a 17-month-old, survived the crash in Medan, capital of North Sumatra.

The plane was carrying 112 passengers and five crew on a flight to Jakarta.

“The plane actually had taken off, but somehow it started to shake heavily and swerved to the left and then wham, a ball of fire came from the front of the plane toward the end,” survivor Rohadi Sitepu told Metro Television from his hospital bed.

“From our side of the plane there were maybe 10 people who survived and although they suffered some injuries, thank God, they managed to escape.”

Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa told a news conference in Medan the number of passengers and crew killed totalled 102, although he gave no breakdown. Officials earlier said 104 people on board had died.

The death toll on the ground was 47, he added. Mandala director Asril Tanjung said the cause of the crash was being investigated, but added foul play was highly unlikely.

The plane crashed on a road in the heart of a residential area, breaking apart, setting fire to homes, cars and motorbikes. It triggered panic as survivors on the ground frantically screamed the names of missing relatives and friends.

Many of the dead were taken to Medan’s Adam Malik hospital and laid out on plastic sheets under a tent in the grounds as rain poured down. Relatives walked gingerly around the bodies, trying to identify their loved ones, although most were burned beyond recognition.

One woman wailed uncontrollably. A neighbour said she was looking for her five-year-old daughter who had been walking to school along the road where the plane came down.—Reuters

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