Indonesian plane missing over Papua region


An Indonesian plane with 54 people on board is missing in Papua region, officials have said.

Contact was lost with the Trigana Air ATR 42 turboprop just before 15:00 local time (06:00 GMT) after take-off from Sentani airport in the regional capital Jayapura.

The plane was flying to the town of Oksibil in the south of the region.

A search for the missing plane was suspended at dusk and will continue on Monday morning, rescuers said.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the plane crashed with weather the likely cause.

The aircraft was carrying 44 adult passengers, five children and infants, and five crew.

It took off from Sentani at 14:21 and contact was lost at 14:55.

Transport ministry spokesman Julius Barata confirmed the disappearance.

“We are not sure what happened to the plane yet and we are co-ordinating with local authorities,” he told AFP news agency.

Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency later said the search had been suspended at nightfall because of limited visibility and would resume at 06:00 local time on Monday (21:00 GMT on Sunday).

Officials later said a second plane had been sent to look for the missing one, but was turned back because of the bad weather.

“Oksibil is a mountainous area where weather is very unpredictable,” Trigana Air director of operations Beni Sumaryanto told AFP. “It can suddenly turn foggy, dark and windy without warning.

“We strongly suspect it’s a weather issue. It is not overcapacity, as the plane could take 50 passengers.”

Trigana Air has had 14 serious incidents since it began operations in 1991, losing 10 aircraft in the process, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

It has been on a European Union blacklist of banned carriers since 2007. All but four of Indonesia’s certified airlines are on the list.

Correspondents say Indonesia has a patchy aviation record overall, with two major crashes in the past year.

An Indonesia AirAsia plane crashed in the Java Sea last December while on an international flight from Surabaya to Singapore, killing all 192 people on board.

A military transport plane crashed in a residential area of Medan, Sumatra in July, killing more than 140 people including several on the ground.

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