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At least 236 feared dead in Indonesian plane crash

September 26, 1997
Web posted at: 8:48 a.m. EDT (1248 GMT)
plane crash gfx

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Rescue crews combed a mountainside Friday in northern Sumatra as they searched for survivors of a plane crash that occurred as the aircraft was preparing to land in thick haze from hundreds of forest fires across Indonesia.

At least 236 people aboard the Indonesian Garuda Airlines A-300 Airbus were feared dead. The plane that was flying from Jakarta went down early Friday afternoon about 15 minutes before it was due to land at Medan, a major commodities and trading center. The plane crashed about 20 (32 km) miles from the airport.

"We are afraid there are no survivors," one official said.

Images of the crash scene
video icon 1.1M/40 sec. QuickTime movie

There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash, and authorities were not sure what role, if any, the smog may have had. An airport official in Medan said a thick haze had covered the airport for the last two days.

One official said, "It's probably the haze, but we're not sure."

Some of the worst fires in Indonesia have been smoldering across Sumatra for months, and several airports in other cities on the island, and elsewhere in the country, were closed Friday because of poor visibility.

In parts of Sumatra Thursday, visibility was down to less than 100 yards (meters).

Airport sources said Flight GA-152 lost contact with the Medan control tower at about 1:30 p.m. (0530 GMT/ 1:30 a.m. EDT). Rescue officials said the plane went down near the village of Buah Nabar in the Sibolangit district south of Medan.

A L S O :

Officials said there were 222 passengers, including one child, and between 14 and 16 crew members on the flight. Most of those on board were believed to be Indonesians, but the plane was also carrying American, Dutch and Japanese passengers.

Sumatra is an Indonesian island divided into two almost equal parts by the equator. The southeastern Asian country of Indonesia is an archipelago of about 17,500 islands.

Bush fires across Sumatra island and Kalimantan have sent a choking, health-threatening haze across neighboring Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. The smoke has also drifted as far as the southern Philippines and parts of Thailand, including the resort area of Phuket.


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