20 May 2009

Many dead after Indonesian army plane crashes

7:39 pm on 20 May 2009

An Indonesian military transport plane carrying troops and their families has crashed on the island of Java, killing at least 97 people, according to officials.

At least two people died on the ground when the Hercules came down near Madiun, hitting houses before skidding into a rice field where it caught fire.

An air force spokesman warned the death toll could rise further as the evacuation of the crash site continued.

The plane had been flying from Jakarta to eastern Java when it crashed.

It missed landing at Iswahyudi air force base and struck houses in the village of Geplak, 4km away, about 6.30am local time.

Visibility appears to have been good and there is no indication yet of why the plane crashed.

Initial reports say the last contact with the crew was a few minutes before the plane came down, as it was making its final approach to land.

Air force spokesman Bambang Sulistyo said the C-130 Hercules had been on a routine training mission, and was carrying 112 passengers and crew.

In April, 24 military staff died when their Fokker 27 training aircraft careered into a hangar and burst into flames at an air base in west Java.

Indonesia is the world's largest archipelagic nation and relies heavily on air travel, but accidents are common and its commercial airlines are banned from flying in European Union airspace for safety reasons.