Indonesian plane with 17 people aboard remains missing

August 3rd, 2009 - 9:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Aug 3 (DPA) Indonesian search and rescue workers have failed to locate an aircraft with 15 people and two babies on board that disappeared shortly after takeoff in the eastern province of Papua, officials said Monday.
Several rescue planes were dispatched to search for the Twin Otter plane belonging to the state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines that went missing Sunday in Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province.

But after several hours of searching, the rescue planes came back without spotting any debris, officials at the transportation ministry said.

“Until this (Monday) afternoon, the plane is still missing,” said Bambang S. Ervan, the ministry’s spokesman. He said he believed the plane had not made an emergency landing.

Meanwhile, the state-run Antara news agency quoted Merpati’s president-director Bambang Bhakti as saying that the search was focused on eight different spots in the mountainous, thickly jungled Papua province.

The Twin Otter plane with 12 passengers on board, including two babies, and a crew of three lost contact with ground control about 15 minutes after departing from Jayapura. It was headed to Oksibil airport for a scheduled 55-minute flight.

Papua relies on air transport owing to its limited road network.

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