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Flames engulf Indonesian jet, killing 21 By IRWAN
FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer 
1 minute ago

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia - A packed jetliner burst into
flames Wednesday as it landed on Java island, killing
21 people, but more than 110 other people escaped the
burning wreckage, many with severe burns, the airline
and witnesses said. 

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said about 10 of
his citizens were on board the Garuda airlines plane.

"It is a terrible tragedy," Howard told a nationally
television news conference. "Many lives have been
lost, and our love and sympathy and condolences go to
those who are suffering distress and grief."

Garuda said in a statement that 21 people had died and
that the other 119 passengers and crew survived and
were being treated in hospital. It did not give their

Earlier, Australia's prime minister said that
Indonesian officials had confirmed that 49 people had
died. It was unclear where he got the information

Television footage shot by a cameraman for Australia's
Seven Network who survived the landing at Yogyakarta's
international airport showed bloodied passengers
stumbling through a rice field away from the plane, as
black smoke, then orange flames, poured from the

An explosion and fireball ripped through the air,
apparently as the fire reached a fuel tank, the
footage showed. It showed dazed and burned victims,
including Indonesians and Westerners, sitting on the
floor or lying on gurneys in the airport terminal.

The network said the cameraman shot the footage after
escaping from the fire.

The Boeing 737-400 started shaking violently before
landing at the airport and then overshot the runway,
hitting fences and stopping in a rice field before 7
a.m. Some survivors said the fire began at the front
the plane before engulfing the aircraft.

Many passengers escaped and rescuers battled flames to
reach those trapped inside, said Capt. Ari Sapari,
operations director of national carrier Garuda.

"Before the plane landed it was shaking. Suddenly
there was smoke inside the fuselage, it hit the runway
and then it landed in a rice field," local Islamic
leader Dien Syamsudin told El-Shinta radio station. "I
saw a foreigner. His clothes were on fire and I jumped
from the emergency exit. Thank God I survived."

Another survivor told local TV station RCTI TV that
"before landing I felt the plane shake strongly."

"We overshot the runway, then I heard the sound of an
explosion and ran through an emergency exit,"
continued passenger Muhammad Dimyati. "I believe many
passengers remained trapped on board."

The Australians on board were diplomatic staff and
journalists who were traveling from the capital,
Jakarta, ahead of Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander
Downer and Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock, who had
been due to attend a function later Wednesday. Neither
official was aboard the stricken plane.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered a thorough
investigation into the crash, appointing the security
minister to look into possible "non-technical" causes,
said spokesman Andi Mallarangengeng, in an apparent
reference to sabotage.

"The president wants to make sure the investigation is
complete. This would include technical and
non-technical problems," Mallarangengeng said without

Indonesia has been hit by a string of transportation
disasters in recent months. In late December, a
passenger ferry sank in a storm in the Java Sea,
killing more than 400 people.

Days later, a passenger plane operated by the budget
airline Adam Air crashed into the ocean, killing all
102 people on board. A ship that sank near the
capital's port left at least 50 dead. 

The government responded by saying it would ban local
commercial airlines from operating planes more than 10
years old, though most experts say maintenance and the
number of takeoffs and landings are the most important
factors in preventing accidents.


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