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Crashed Indonesian plane was carrying hundreds of thousands in cash

Search teams are racing to reach the site of what is believed to be debris from the plane.

Indonesia Plane Chief of National Search And Rescue Agency F. Henry Bambang Soelistyo (left) checks a map with Air Vice Marshal Sudipo Handoyo. Source: Alfian

RESCUERS ARE RACING to reach debris in remote eastern Indonesian mountains believed to be from a plane that crashed carrying 54 people and cash worth almost half a million euros.

The plane operated by Indonesian carrier Trigana Air lost contact with air traffic control on yesterday afternoon in bad weather on a short flight from Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.

The ATR 42-300 twin-turboprop plane was carrying 49 passengers and five crew on the journey to Oksibil, a remote settlement in the mountains to the south of Jayapura.

Also on the plane was 6.5 billion rupiah (€422,000) in cash, which were government funds being transported by postal officials for distribution to poor families, according to the head of the Jayapura post office.

But the plane disappeared about 10 minutes before reaching its destination, soon after requesting permission to start descending in heavy cloud to land.

Indonesia Plane File photo of a Trigana Air ATR42-300 plane. Source: Associated Press

It is just the latest air accident in Indonesia, which has a poor aviation safety record and has suffered major incidents recently, including the crash of an AirAsia plane in December with the loss of 162 lives.

Trigana Air, a small domestic airline, has experienced a string of serious incidents and is banned from flying in European Union airspace.

A search plane spotted debris engulfed in smoke near Oksibil and another aircraft was being sent to check. Villagers had already reported seeing the plane crash into a mountain and spotted wreckage.

A team of rescuers, including troops and police, were heading to the area on foot but will have to battle through dense forest to reach the remote site, which is at an altitude of about 2,600 metres, according to officials.

“The area is steep and is covered by dense forests… There is no road, no access at all,” said Papua military spokesman Teguh Pudji Rahardjo.

There was no word yet on whether anyone might have survived the crash.

Indonesia Plane Relatives of passengers on the missing Trigana Air Service flight wait for information at Sentani airport in Jayapura. Source: Alfian/AP/Press Association Images

Relatives of passengers were becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of hard news, with some shouting “We want confirmation!” and throwing a table at a crisis centre set up by Trigana Air at Jayapura airport.

“My family and I have been gathered here for hours. We want to know the fate of my brother, Kepi Deal, who was on board the plane,” Rifan Wea, one of about 100 relatives at the airport, told AFP.

We want to know whether he is dead or alive.

- © AFP, 2015

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