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Indonesian President Orders Investigation of Fiery Plane Crash


Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered an investigation after an Indonesian plane carrying 140 people crash-landed in the central Java city of Yogyakarta, killing more than 20 people. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

The Garuda Boeing 737-400 passenger jet was carrying 133 passengers and seven crew members when it burst into flames after landing at Indonesia's Yogyakarta airport early Wednesday morning. The burning plane overshot the runway and ended in a rice field.

Presidential spokesman Dino Djalil says President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered an immediate investigation into the crash, the second airline disaster in the country in just over two months.

"He has ordered an investigation into why the incident happened, and this is an investigation that should look into the possibility of all factors," explained the spokesman. "It could be either technical fault, it can be human error, or it could be other reasons."

Among those on board were at least 10 Australians, including foreign diplomats and journalists who were covering the visit of Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to Indonesia. Downer himself was not on the plane.

Dozens of survivors are being treated at local hospitals, with some people still unaccounted for.

Mulyiadi, administrator for Yogyakarta's Panti Rini Hospital, says dozens of survivors were brought there for treatment.

He says many of those injured were burn victims, with just a few suffering only cuts and scrapes.

A man named Suarjono who survived the crash told local Metro TV the weather was fine during the flight. But when the plane descended, he says, it started to shake.

He says the plane bounced along the tarmac, then caught fire as he quickly jumped out a nearby exit.

Other survivors have been quoted as saying they smelled smoke before the plane landed.

Australia lost 88 citizens in the 2002 terrorist bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali. Australian Prime Minister John Howard says several more Australians may be among Wednesday's dead.

"It's clear from reports and from statements made by the individual agencies that quite a number of those [Australians] have survived, but given the severity of the crash and the following fire, we should be prepared for bad news in relation to at least some of the Australians on board the aircraft," Howard said.

Indonesia has suffered a string of transportation accidents and disasters in recent months, including the January 1 crash into the sea of an Adam Air flight that killed 102 people. Two ship accidents over the last 3 months have claimed the lives of more than 400 people, and a second Adam Air flight broke apart on landing last month, although no one on that flight was killed.

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