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Indonesia launches search op after contact lost with Boeing 737 passenger plane

A Sriwijaya Air plane carrying more than 50 people on board has lost contact after taking off from Indonesian capital Jakarta on Saturday en route to the city of Pontianak in West Kalimantan province.

This radar image shows the flight path of Indonesian Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 before it dropped off radar, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. The Sriwijaya Air passenger jet carrying 62 people lost contact with air traffic controllers after taking off from Indonesia’s capital on Saturday on a domestic flight, officials said. (Flightradar24.com via AP)

FlightRadar24 data showed the aircraft apparently lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute shortly after departure from Jakarta.

Adita Irawati, spokesperson from the Indonesian Ministry of Communications confirmed to local media that the flight “lost contact”.

“We are currently investigating and coordinating with the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) and the National Transportation Safety Committee,” she told local media Tribunnews.

“We will provide further information when there are other developments.”

Ms Irawati said the Boeing 737-500 took off from Jakarta at about 1:56pm (local time) and lost contact with the control tower at 2:40pm (local time).

A statement released by the airline said the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan on Indonesia’s Borneo island.

Agus Haryono, an official from Basarnas, said suspected debris of the missing flight has been found off Jakarta, but cannot confirm that it came from the Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ182.

The aircraft is a 27-year-old Boeing 737-500, according to registration details included in the tracking data.

Surachman, a local resident of Indonesia’s Thousand Islands, north of the Jakarta coast, told Kompas TV that fishermen found what appeared to be the wreckage of an aircraft in waters north of Jakarta and a search was underway.

Other channels showed pictures of suspected wreckage.

Mr Surachman also told CNN Indonesia that residents heard two loud explosions which residents initially thought was lightning before he went to the water to investigate.

“Initially I received reports from fishermen, two of their boats saw an explosion from the sea twice when it was still raining at 2:00pm [local time],” he said.

“Currently I am still at the scene of the incident in the middle of the sea. We are looking for evidence using an anchor.

A crisis centre has been set up at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International airport.(Reuters: Willy Kurniawan)

Mr Surachman told local media that the location of the incident was 15 minutes from Lancang Island, one of the islands which make up Indonesia’s Thousand Islands district.

He said the water condition was relatively murky.

“We found some cables, a piece of jeans, and pieces of metal on the water,” Zulkifli, a security official, told CNNIndonesia.

A crisis centre has been set up at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International airport, local media reports.

A Boeing 737 MAX operated by Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed off Jakarta in late 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew. The plane that lost contact on Saturday is a much older model.

The National Search and Rescue Agency said it could not give an immediate comment.

ABC/Wires

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