Indonesian plane carrying 54 people loses contact over Papua – Fox News

An Indonesian airliner with 54 people on board has lost contact over the country’s easternmost province of Papua, an official said.

Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata says a plane belonging to Trigana Air Service lost contact Sunday afternoon while flying from Jayapura, Papua’s provincial capital, to the Papua city of Okisibil.

The ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane was carrying 49 passengers and five crew members on the scheduled 42-minute journey, he said. Five children, including three infants, were among the passengers.

The weather was poor near Oksibil, with heavy rain, strong winds and fog, when the plane lost contact with the airport nine minutes before it was scheduled to land, said Susanto, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency.

A plane was sent to look for the missing airliner, but the search was later suspended due to darkness, said Susanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. The search operation will continue Monday morning, he said.

Much of Papua is covered with impenetrable jungles and mountains. Some planes that have crashed there in the past have never been found.

Indonesia has had its share of airline woes in recent years. The sprawling archipelago nation of 250 million people and some 17,000 islands is one of Asia’s most rapidly expanding airline markets, but is struggling to provide enough qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and updated airport technology to ensure safety.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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