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Plane Carrying 16 Missing in Indonesia

A plane carrying 16 people has disappeared over the remote province of Papua in the Indonesian archipelago.

The routine flight from the capital of Papua province, Jayapura, to the town of Oksibil, near the border with Papua New Guinea, should have taken just 50 minutes. But air traffic controllers say they lost contact with the Twin Otter plane.

Airline officials said 16 people, including three crew members, were aboard the plane, operated by Merpati Nusantara airlines.

Merpati Nusantara's director of operations, Captain Nikmatullah, said the plane had recently been inspected by a technician, and there were no reports of problems. It was carrying enough fuel to fly for more than three hours.

A spokesman in Papua said bad weather is hampering search efforts.
Crashes are not uncommon in Papua province where light aircraft, must navigate soaring mountains covered with impenetrable jungle. Some missing planes have never been found.

Indonesia's airline industry has come under scrutiny in recent years after a series of crashes of both commercial and military aircraft in which hundreds of people have died.

Last month, the European Union lifted a two-year ban on travel in its airspace for the national carrier Garuda and three other commercial airlines.

Merpati Nusantara is one of a handful of Indonesian operators that remain banned from entering European airspace.