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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Tuesday, 19 January 2021 3.26 PM IST

Indonesia's Sriwijaya Air plane carrying 62 passengers crashes after take-off

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JAKARTA: A Sriwijaya Air plane crashed into the sea on Saturday minutes after taking off from Indonesia's capital Jakarta on a domestic flight with 62 people on board, and their fate was not known.

The Boeing 737-500, en route to Pontianak in West Kalimantan, disappeared from radar screens after taking off just after 2.30 p.m. (0730 GMT) - 30 minutes after the scheduled time because of heavy rain.

Indonesian Transport Minister Budi Karya told a news conference that 62 people had been aboard Flight SJ 182, including 12 crew. The detik.com website quoted him as saying the plane crashed near Laki Island, some 20 km (12 miles) from the airport.

Rescue agency Basarnas said in a statement it would send a team to the Thousand Islands area to help in the search for victims "after the crash of Sriwijaya Air SJ 182".

All those on board were Indonesian, Indonesia's transport safety committee said.

Indonesia's Navy had pinpointed the site of the missing aircraft and ships had been sent there, a Navy official said. Authorities did not say whether they believed there were survivors.

Indonesian airline Sriwijaya Air's chief executive, Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, told a news conference that the plane had been in good condition before the flight.

The nearly 27-year-old Boeing 737-500 was much older than Boeing's problem-plagued 737 MAX model, one of which crashed off Jakarta in late 2018, killing all 189 people aboard the Lion Air flight. Older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.

A Boeing spokeswoman said, "We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information".

Reliable tracking service Flightradar24 said the Boeing jet took off at 2:36 p.m. local time (0736 GMT) and climbed to reach 10,900 feet within four minutes. It then began a steep descent and stopped transmitting data 21 seconds later.

A transport ministry spokeswoman said air traffic control at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport had asked the pilot why the plane was heading northwest instead of on its expected flight path just seconds before it disappeared.

There were no immediate clues on what may have caused the sudden descent and safety experts stress most air accidents are caused by a cocktail of factors that can take months to establish.

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