Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Indonesian airplane crashes in crowded residential district


A domestic jetliner slammed into a crowded neighborhood in Indonesia's third largest city yesterday, bursting into flames and killing at least 130 people, many on the ground. Up to 16 passengers survived the inferno, officials said.

The Boeing 737-200 crashed seconds after taking off from Medan airport in north Sumatra.

It was the second deadly air accident in Indonesia in nine months, and the latest in a series of air disasters worldwide.

The Mandala Airlines plane was heading to Jakarta in overcast weather when it skidded onto a busy road and into a row of houses just 500m from the airport. State news agency Antara reported the craft hit electrical wires, but it was unclear whether this was the cause of the accident.

Firefighters struggled to put out the blaze, which sent thick black smoke high into the air, but were assisted by a midmorning rain shower. Houses were engulfed in flames and at least 10 cars were damaged.

"The plane was shaking violently and fell to earth," said Ridho Timor, 27, who was standing outside his home within view of the crash. "When I got there, one person was on fire as he ran from the plane."

The plane was carrying 116 passengers and crew, said Alex Widjojo, a spokesman for the airline. Widjojo said 16 passengers survived. Medan police chief Colonel Irawan Dahlan put the figure at 15.

Thirty people on the ground were also killed, said search and rescue official Zainul Tahar, and dozens were being treated in two city hospitals with severe burns.

Rohadi Sitepu, who escaped death by crawling though a hole in the fuselage, said all the survivors were seated at the back of the plane.

"The plane had already taken off but suddenly it started shaking and banked steeply to the left and then bang, there was fire everywhere," Sitepu told Metro TV station from his hospital bed.

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