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Confusion over missing Java plane

Indonesia's transport minister has denied reports that the wreckage of a plane carrying 102 people from Java had been found on Sulawesi island. Hatta Radjasa said the plane had not been found and reports to the contrary were based on rumours from local villagers which were wrong.

Rescuers and airline officials were earlier quoted as saying they had seen bodies at the crash site. The confusion is adding to the distress of relatives of those on board. Hatta Radjasa told local radio that search teams were still looking for the plane, a 17-year-old Boeing 737-400.

"It's not true that the crash location has been found," he said, an hour after talking about the difficulties search teams faced in reaching what was then thought to be the crash site. First Air Marshal Eddy Suyanto, commander of the air base in Makassar, close to where the plane was originally reported to have come down, also contradicted his earlier statement that wreckage had been found.

"The location has not been found. We apologise that the news that we conveyed was not true," he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. Another regional commander, Major General Arif Budi Santoso, told Metro TV that no wreckage had been found at the supposed crash site. News from the village head reporting 12 survivors was also not true, the village head said that he never made that report," he said.

Heavy rains

The Adam Air plane went missing en route from Surabaya in Java on a two-hour flight to Manado in northern Sulawesi on Monday. According to the earlier reports, the plane's debris was believed to have been found in remote terrain near the town of Polewali in western Sulawesi.

The reports said rescue and search teams hiked through heavy rain for hours to reach the wreckage of the Boeing 737. A number of local officials confirmed 90 bodies had been found, and described debris scattered across a wide area. The confusion and lack of information has been fuelling anger among the families of those onboard, the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Jakarta says.

Dozens had gathered at airports on Java and in northern Sulawesi to wait for flights that would take them nearer to the scene of the crash. But the airline has said it would not take relatives to the area until it was sure what the casualty figures were.

The plane went missing after sending out two distress calls when it was an hour away from its destination on Monday. The region has been subjected to high winds and severe storms in the last few days. About 400 people are still missing after a passenger ship sank off Java on Saturday morning.

Safety record

Adam Air, a privately owned low-cost airline based in Jakarta, started flying in 2003. It was set up by Agung Laksono, the speaker of Indonesia's house of representatives. Adam Air is one of at least a dozen budget airlines to begin operations since the industry was deregulated in 1999.

Indonesia has a chequered flight safety record which includes several major crashes. Last year almost 150 people were killed when a plane crashed into a busy road shortly after taking off from Medan on the island of Sumatra.

BBC

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