Fri, Jan 05, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Indonesia probes nation's transport

AFP , JAKARTA

Singaporean Air Force personnel check their maps prior to a search mission for the missing Adam Air jetliner at Hassanuddin Airbase in Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered the setting up of a special team to evaluate the country's transport systems following the latest deadly air and sea disasters.

Search and rescue teams were scouring land and sea for a plane with 102 people on board which went missing on Monday while ships were also searching for hundreds of people still missing after a ferry carrying about 600 passengers and crew sank on Friday.

"After learning the condition of our national transport in the past 10 years, he [the president] decided to form a national transportation evaluation team, especially to evaluate Indonesia's maritime and aviation sectors," Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa told reporters late on Wednesday.

The team would report directly to the president.

"`Safety first' should be the basis of evaluating our entire maritime and aviation," Radjasa said, quoting the president.

The president also requested "stricter monitoring and operation of maritime and air transport" especially after recent extreme weather and the prevailing Tropical Cyclone Isobel off Western Australia.

Yudhoyono also said the search for the aircraft and ferry survivors should continue as long as possible.

Indonesia usually searches for seven days after a disaster.

"The president has instructed that the search and rescue for the two incidents continue as long as possible," Radjasa said.

Aircraft and ferry accidents are not uncommon in Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation stretching over 5,000km which is largely dependent on air and sea transport.

Meanwhile, US and Singapore air force planes were yesterday set to join a massive air, land and sea search for the missing Indonesian passenger jet.

The Adam Air Boeing 737-400, with 96 passengers and six crew, vanished from radar screens halfway through a flight from Surabaya, on central Java, to Manado, on the northeast tip of Sulawesi.

The search was now concentrating on the sea off Majene, 40km west of Polewali, as well as areas inland based on coordinates from distress signals from the plane and its last known position.

A Singapore air force plane with 27 personnel landed on Wednesday evening to aid the search.

US air force aircraft were expected Thursday, armed forces commander Djoko Suyanto said.

On the ground, rescue teams have been scouring the forests and hills of West Sulawesi up to the Tana Toraja regency, about 75km northeast of Polewali.

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