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Missing airliner not located--Indonesian officials
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 02 - 01 - 2007


The fate of an
Indonesian airliner missing with 102 people on board remained
in doubt late on Tuesday after senior officials apologised for
erroneously stating that its wreckage had been found, according to Reuters.
Officials had earlier said what was left of the plane, a
Boeing 737-400 operated by budget carrier Adam Air, had been
located in the mountains of Sulawesi island where it had
crashed in heavy rain. Reports said 12 people had survived the
crash.
"The location has not been found. We apologise that the
news that we conveyed was not true," First Air Marshal Eddy
Suyanto, commander of Hasanuddin air base in Makassar, told
reporters.
"It's not true that the crash location has been found,"
Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa told the same news conference,
held less than an hour after another in which he had talked
about difficulties in reaching what was thought to be the site.
"We found nothing when we arrived at the location," Suyanto
added.
The plane lost contact with the ground on Monday about an
hour before it was due to land in Manado in North Sulawesi, the
transport ministry said.
The plane was carrying 96 passengers and six crew. A copy
of its manifest showed three passengers as non-Indonesians. The
United States embassy in Jakarta said they were Americans.
The plane went missing just two days after a ferry carrying
more than 600 people sank in bad weather off the main island of
Java. At least 200 were saved and rescuers were still finding
survivors on Tuesday, but some 400 were still unaccounted for.
CONFUSION
Suyanto had earlier told Radio Elshinta an air force plane
had spotted the wreckage of the Boeing, and a spokesman for
Adam Air said 12 people had survived and would be evacuated.
In another twist, transport minister Radjasa had already
cast doubt on the survivors' report, saying it was based on
comments from villagers and could not be confirmed.
Relatives of passengers anxiously awaiting news in Makassar
reacted to the new developments with shock and dismay.
"It was said that the search and rescue team had seen the
aircraft. We are confused whom we should trust," Toni Toliu,
48, from Manado told Reuters. His sister and her two children
were on the plane.
Sopiana de Fretes, 49, related to an army official on the
plane, said: "Since I got here, the news has been conflicting.
It's like we don't get the news that we are supposed to get."
Officials said the search would now continue at other
sites, concentrating in areas of western Sulawesi from where
distress signals had been picked up on Monday before contact
with the plane was lost.
Searchers face bad weather conditions and rough, jungle
terrain.
A spokesman for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono had issued a statement in Jakarta, shortly before
news broke that the plane had not been found, saying the
president wanted a full investigation into what went wrong.
"The president orders the transportation minister to
evaluate and investigate this accident. The president also
asked for an evaluation and investigation on the airworthiness
of the plane and standard procedure on airplane operations,"
the statement said.
Thus far transport officials have insisted the Boeing was
airworthy and had no record of trouble.
The transport ministry said it had last evaluated the plane
in December 2005, when it had passed all service checks. The
17-year-old aircraft was due to be checked again in late
January.
The Boeing had 45,371 flying hours and, according to Adam
Air, was powered by General Electric CFM56-3C1 engines.
Air travel in Indonesia, home to 220 million people, has
grown substantially since the liberalisation of the airline
industry after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s,
which enabled privately owned budget airlines to operate.
Adam Air was established in 2002 by Agung Laksono, speaker
of Indonesia's parliament and chairman of the company, and
Sandra Ang. It began operations on Dec. 19, 2003.
(With additional reporting by Muklis Ali, Achmad Sukarsono,
Mita Valina Liem and Muara Makarim in JAKARTA)


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