An Indonesian aircraft with 189 people on board crashed into the sea and sank on Monday soon after taking off from the capital, Jakarta, on a flight to a tin-mining region, officials said.
Lion Air flight JT610, an almost new Boeing 737 MAX 8, lost contact with ground officials 13 minutes after takeoff, and crashed about 15 km (9 miles) off the coast.
Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, although its safety record is patchy. If all aboard have died, the crash would be the country’s second-worst air disaster since 1997, industry experts said.
“We don’t know yet whether there are any survivors,” search and rescue agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told a news conference, adding that no distress signal had been received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter.
“We hope, we pray, but we cannot confirm.”
Items such as handphones and life vests were found in waters about 30 meters to 35 meters (98 to 115 ft) deep near where the plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, lost contact, he said.
“We are there already, our vessels, our helicopter is hovering above the waters, to assist,” Syaugi said. “We are trying to dive down to find the wreck.”
Ambulances were lined up at Karawang, on the coast east of Jakarta and police were preparing rubber dinghies, a Reuters reporter said. Fishing boats were being used to help search.
At least 23 government officials were on board the plane, which an air navigation spokesman said had sought to turn back just before losing contact.
Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air Group, told reporters the aircraft had a technical problem on a flight from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta but it had been “resolved according to procedure”.
Sirait declined to specify the nature of the issue but said none of its other aircraft of that model had the same problem. Lion had operated 11 Boeing 737 Max 8s and it had no plan to ground the rest of them, he said.
The accident is the first to be reported involving the widely sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer’s workhorse single-aisle jet.
Privately owned Lion Air said the aircraft had been in operation since August, was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot together having accumulated 11,000 hours of flying time.
The head of Indonesia’s transport safety committee said he could not confirm the cause of the crash, which would have to wait until the recovery of the plane’s black boxes, as the cockpit voice recorder and data flight recorder are known.
“The plane is so modern, it transmits data from the plane, and that we will review too. But the most important is the blackbox,” said Soerjanto Tjahjono.
Safety experts say nearly all accidents are caused by a combination of factors and only rarely have a single identifiable cause.
The weather was clear, Tjahjono said.
President Joko Widodo told a news conference authorities were focusing on the search and rescue, and he called for the country’s prayers and support.
The effort to find the wreckage and retrieve the black boxes represents a major challenge for investigators in Indonesia, where an AirAsia Airbus jet crashed in the Java Sea in December 2015.
Under international rules, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will automatically assist with the inquiry into Monday’s crash, backed up by technical advisers from Boeing and U.S.-French engine maker CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and Safran.
Boeing was deeply saddened by the loss, it said in a statement, and was ready to provide technical assistance for the investigation.
The flight took off from Jakarta around 6.20 a.m. and was due to have landed in Pangkal Pinang, capital of the Bangka-Belitung tin mining region, at 7.20 a.m., the Flightradar 24 website showed.
Data from FlightRadar24 shows the first sign of something amiss was around two minutes into the flight, when the plane had reached 2,000 feet (610 m).
Then it descended more than 500 feet (152 m) and veered to the left before climbing again to 5,000 feet (1,524 m), where it stayed during most of the rest of the flight.
It began gaining speed in the final moments and reached 345 knots (397 mph) before data was lost when it was at 3,650 feet (1,113 m).
Its last recorded position was about 15 km (9 miles) north of the Indonesian coast, according to a Google Maps reference of the last coordinates from Flightradar24.
Indonesia’s worst air disaster was in 1997, when a Garuda Indonesia A300 crashed in the city of Medan killing 214 people.
Founded in 1999, Lion Air’s only fatal accident was in 2004, when an MD-82 crashed upon landing at Solo City, killing 25 of the 163 on board, the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network says.
In April, the airline announced a firm order to buy 50 Boeing 737 MAX 10 narrowbody jets with a list price of $6.24 billion. It is one of the U.S. planemaker’s largest customers globally.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro Tests Positive For Coronavirus
After developing symptoms, including a high temperature, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has on Tuesday confirmed he tested positive for coronavirus.
Bolsonaro on Monday took his fourth test for covid-19, a virus he has repeatedly played down the risks posed by it, calling it “a little flu” and saying that he would not be seriously affected by it.
Bolsonaro speaking to reporters on Tuesday lunchtime outside his official residence said the tests he took “came back positive.”
The 65-year-old president added “there’s no reason for fear. That’s life,” he said “life goes on. I thank God for my life and the role I’ve been given to decide the future of this great nation that is called Brazil.”
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the South America country has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and more than 65,000 related deaths.
Turkey Trial Of Saudi Suspects In Jamal Khashoggi Murder Begins
Twenty Saudi nationals including two former aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have gone on trial in absentia in a Turkish court over the killing and dismembering of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 after he entered the premises to obtain paperwork for his planned marriage.
The trial began at Istanbul province’s main court in Caglayan district at 10am local time (07:00 GMT) on Friday.
Turkish officials say Khashoggi’s body was dismembered at the consulate by the killers and his remains are yet to be found.
59-year-old Khashoggi was an insider-turned-critic who wrote for The Washington Post before he was killed inside the Saudi consulate. He was also a vocal critic of the prince.
Saudi Arabia carried out a separate trial over the killing that was heavily criticized as incomplete. In December a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five persons to death and three to jail for Khashoggi’s killing, but the trial was secretive and the defendants were not named.
The Saudi authorities initially denied any involvement in the case, but later called it a “rogue operation”.
The AFP news agency reports that his fiancee Hatice Cengiz is attending the trial alongside the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government but has never directly blamed Prince Mohammed.
Turkish prosecutors claim Saudi deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri and the royal court’s media czar Saud al-Qahtani led the operation and gave orders to a Saudi hit team.
The prosecutor has already issued arrest warrants for the suspects who are not in Turkey.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan Blames India For Stock Exchange Attack
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has told the country’s Parliament he is certain that India was behind the deadly attack on the stock exchange building in the southern city of Karachi in which at least seven persons were killed.
On Monday, four gunmen armed with grenades and automatic rifles attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange, killing two guards and a police officer before security forces killed the attackers.
Khan told parliament on Tuesday that he believed India was behind, he said “for the last two months my Cabinet knew [that there would be an attack]. I had informed my minister. All our agencies were on high alert.”
However, India had denied the charge a day earlier.
Militants from the Baloch Liberation Army say they were behind the attack.
Pakistan has suffered years of militant violence, mostly by Islamist groups, but attacks such as this one have become rare in recent years.
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