Plane With 16 Passengers Disappears Over Indonesia

JAKARTA – A plane carrying 16 people disappeared over eastern Indonesia on Sunday, an airline official said.

The Twin Otter plane was on a commercial flight over the remote Papua region when it lost contact with ground officials, said Capt. Nikmatullah, the director of operations of airline Merpati Nusantara.

No trace had been found of the plane more than four hours after it took off, said Nikmatullah, who goes by a single name. The aircraft was carrying enough fuel to keep it in the air for 3 1/2 hours, he told Metro TV.

The plane was on a 50-minute journey from Sentani, a major airport in Papua, to the town of Oksibil, he said.

Much of Papua is covered with impenetrable jungles and mountains. In the past, crashed planes have never been found.

Indonesia, a nation of more than 18,000 islands, has seen several major air crashes in recent years that have killed more than 220.

In 2007, the European Union banned all Indonesian carriers from landing in the bloc. It recently lifted the ban on four of them, including Garuda, the country's flag carrier, saying standards had improved.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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