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Indonesian plane crash kills 147

Reuters | September 5, 2005

An Indonesian plane crashed in the city of Medan shortly after takeoff on Monday, killing all 117 people on board and 30 bystanders on the ground, officials said.

The Mandala Airlines Boeing 737-200 was heading to Jakarta when it crashed in a crowded residential neighborhood and burst into flames, Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa told the Associated Press news agency.

The airline's acting president, Maj. Gen. Hasril Hamzah Tanjung, said that the plane was carrying more than 117 passengers and crew.

Tanjung also said an investigation was under way to determine the cause of the crash.

He added that the plane was almost 25 years old, and received its last comprehensive service in June. It flew more than 50,000 hours and was due to be retired in 2016.

Zainul Kahar, chief of operations at Medan's search and rescue agency, told Reuters that "all passengers and crew died. Thirty people who were around the area also died".

Officials said that the governor of North Sumatra province, who was heading to Jakarta for a meeting with the president, was killed in the crash.

Witnesses said more than 10 cars were damaged. Smoke billowed from the burning debris and several houses were in flames. Hundreds of policemen, paramedics and residents were trying to rescue the victims.

Syahrial Anas, a doctor supervising the removal of charred bodies, said flames were hindering their rescue efforts.

"We're having a hard time getting to the bodies, because of the heat," Anas told the AP.

Medan is Indonesia's third largest city. It has been a key point for tsunami aid operations in Aceh province, which lies in the northern tip of Sumatran island. The international airport is close to the center of town and is surrounded by crowded residential neighborhoods.

Indoesnia's plane crash follows five major airline accidents in August, the deadliest month for plane accidents sine May 2002. More than 334 people were killed in crashes in Peru, Venezuela, Greece and Tunisia last month. A plane also overshot a runway in Toronto and caught fire; but nobody died.

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