U.S. Embassy Says 3 Americans Aboard Plane
POSTED: 3:35 am EST January 2, 2007, The Associated Press.
MAKASSAR, Indonesia -- Rescuers found the smoldering wreckage Tuesday of an Indonesian jetliner that went missing during a storm, and officials said 90 people were killed but 12 survived in the country's second major disaster in days.
The Boeing 737 operated by local carrier Adam Air crashed in a mountainous region of Sulawesi island in the northeast of the sprawling archipelagic nation, said local police Chief Col. Genot Hariyanto.
The 17-year-old plane carried six crew and 96 passengers, including 11 children. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said three Americans were aboard, but there was no immediate word on whether they survived or on their identities.
Adam Air spokesman Hartonom, who goes by just one name, said 90 people were killed and that there were 12 survivors.
Officials said rescuers were trying to evacuate survivors, but there was no immediate word on their conditions.
"The plane is destroyed and many bodies are around there," Hariyanto said.
The plane was on a domestic flight from Java island to Sulawesi when it disappeared late Monday about an hour before it was due to land amid very bad weather. The captain managed to send out two distress signals, said national aviation chief Ichsan Tatang said late Monday.
Hundreds of people gathered at Manado airport, the aircraft's destination.
Some collapsed when they heard the news 90 people had died, while others angrily banged on the door of the Adam Air office there, demanding information, witnesses said.
"I have heard on the television that 12 people survived, I just hope that one of them is my father," said Ridwan Lamani.
Justin Tumurang's twin sister was on the plane. "Being a twin, we share almost every feeling. I felt something was not right, and it grew worse. Now I feel pain," she said.
Weeks of seasonal rains and high winds in Indonesia have caused several deadly floods, landslides and maritime accidents, including the sinking of the ferry.
The passenger ship capsized about 650 miles from the area where the Adam Air plane disappeared, and naval ships and helicopters have since scoured the choppy tropical waters for ferry survivors.
However, officials said bad weather on Tuesday was preventing rescuers from resuming the search.
Loved ones also gathered in the Central Java port town of Rembang, awaiting word about the ferry, many losing hope as bloated bodies continued to wash to shore.
Search and rescue operations were continuing, with nearly 200 survivors found, but a temporary morgue also was being set up at a port close to where the Senopati Nusantara went down. Hundreds of body bags were being readied.
"I am tired of crying," said Sipan, who goes by only one name, as he waited at the local hospital for news of his son. "Dead or alive, I will accept his destiny. It is up to God. All I can do is keep waiting."
With more than 17,000 islands, boats are one of the main modes of transportation in Indonesia. But people are increasingly taking to the skies, thanks in part to the emergence of budget airlines.
Adam Air is one of at least a dozen budget airlines that have emerged in Indonesia since 1999, when the industry was deregulated.
The rapid expansion has led to cheap flights to scores of destinations around the sprawling nation, but has raised some safety concerns, since many of the airlines are small and lease planes that are decades old.
The aircraft's last inspection was on Dec. 25 and it had flown 45,371 hours, Tatang said.
Last year, an Adam Air jetliners lost all communication and navigation systems for four hours during a flight between the Indonesian capital Jakarta and Makassar on Sulawesi Island, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing at a small provincial airport.
A day later, the plane flew to a regional airport with proper maintenance facilities without being given the go-ahead by aviation authorities, a major violation of national and international safety rules.
In September 2005, a Mandala Airlines Boeing 737 crashed after take off on Sumatra island, killing 143 people.
In September 1997, a Garuda Airlines Airbus crashed into a jungle-covered mountain slope in Sumatra, killing all 234 people aboard. Two months later, a Silk Air Boeing 737 jet crashed into a river on Sumatra, killing 104 people.
Adam Air, which began operations in 2003, was founded by Agung Laksono, the speaker of Indonesia's house of representatives and the company's chairman.