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Indonesian airliner crashes, 49 killed

Luckily dozens escape the accident as plane carrying 133 people catches fire.
Reuters | By HT Correspondent, Jakarta
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2007 06:59 PM IST

At least 49 people died but dozens escaped after an Indonesian passenger jet overshot the runway and burst into flames on landing in the cultural capital of Yogyakarta on Wednesday.

Dozens of passengers leapt from the plane's emergency exists into rice paddy fields to escape the inferno, which reduced the plane to a smouldering wreck of twisted metal.

"We found 48 dead bodies at the spot. One person died at Sardjito hospital," provincial secretary Bambang Susanto said, referring to the city's main medical centre.

Chief Garuda spokesman Pujobroto said flight GA 200 was a Boeing 737-400 plane carrying 133 passengers and seven crew when it crashed at around 7 am (0000 GMT) after a scheduled flight from Jakarta.

Australian officials said the flight was carrying a large group of Australian diplomats, government officials and journalists who had been accompanying Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who was not aboard, on an official visit to Indonesia.

Garuda's media office said the plane carried eight Australians, two Japanese, two Brunei nationals and seven other foreigners.

Yogyakarta, around 440 kms (270 miles) southeast of the capital, Jakarta, is known as the cultural heart of Indonesia and very popular with tourists, although it is the off season at the moment.

Disaster follows disaster

The crash came a day after two powerful earthquakes hit the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra, killing at least 70 people.

Crash survivor Din Syamsudin, the head of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organisation, Muhammadiyah, told Elshinta news radio of his lucky escape.

"Some passengers wanted to get their hand luggage. I cried to them, 'Get out, get out'," he said. "The plane was full of smoke. I just jumped from two metres high and landed in a rice field."

"I was sitting at the back of the plane and people started to jump out," Julianto, one of the survivors, told Metro TV. "Many escaped the plane," he added.

Indonesia has suffered from a string of transport accidents in recent months, including an Adam Air plane that disappeared in January with 102 passengers and crew on board, and a ferry sinking in late December in which hundreds died.

The series of accidents had sparked the government to set up special commissions to look at the state of transportation safety in the sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands.

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