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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

As death toll rises to 135, Indonesia crash raises concerns over aging fleet



Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN)The crash of a 50-year-old Indonesian Air Force plane that killed at least 135 people has put the health of the Southeast Asian nation's military aircraft under scrutiny.

The C-130 Hercules transport plane slammed into a neighborhood of Medan, a major city on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, shortly after takeoff Tuesday, leaving a hellish scene of smoldering wreckage and shattered buildings.

The plane wasn't only carrying military personnel but also their family members, as well as students and other civilians.

"Aging fleet again takes its toll," read a headline on the website of the Jakarta Post, a local English-language newspaper.

Other local media reminded Indonesians that this isn't the first disaster involving one of the Indonesian Air Force's decades-old C-130s. In May 2009, one crashed near the city of Madiun on the island of Java, killing scores of people.

Tuesday's crash is the sixth involving an Indonesian Air Force plane in the past decade, according to the Aviation Safety Network, an agency that keeps a database of aircraft accidents worldwide.

President wants review of aircraft after series of crashes
Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for a review of military equipment in light of the series of disasters.

"Following several plane crashes, we should conduct a total audit and modernize the (old) planes," Jokowi said Tuesday, according to Indonesia's national news agency, Antara.

Authorities are still investigating what caused the disaster. Air Marshal Agus Supriatna, the commander of the Indonesian Air Force, said Wednesday that officials suspect engine trouble might have been to blame.

Lockheed has been making the C-130 Hercules, a four-engine turboprop plane known for its durability, since the 1950s.

Families face uncertain wait for answers
The aircraft that crashed Tuesday was built in the United States in the 1964, according to the Indonesian military.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the plane was due to be retrofitted soon, local media reported.

It had been inspected and cleared to fly before it took off from Medan, said Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya, an Indonesian military spokesman.

Complicating investigators' efforts to find out what went wrong on the C-130, the military said the aircraft wasn't believed to have a flight data recorder on board.

Families may face an indefinite wait for clear answers. The military says it still hasn't made public its conclusions on what caused the C-130 crash back in 2009.

Body bags pile up at hospital
At the local hospital in Medan on Wednesday, body bags piled up in corridors as officials worked on the grim process of identifying remains.

Police told CNN Indonesia that the process was been hampered by the lack of a cold room in the hospital where the identification team could carry out the task.

Zulkifli, an Indonesian Red Cross official who goes by only one name, said that 135 bodies had been brought from the crash site, along with seven bags containing body parts.

Images from the scene of the disaster showed heavy lifting equipment digging through the debris.

Plane was ferrying people, supplies between islands
The plane was carrying people and logistical supplies bound for bases on other Indonesian islands.

It began its multistop journey Tuesday in Jakarta, the capital, and had made two stops along the way to Medan, in Pekanbaru and Dumai. Sometimes, Indonesian civilians also hitch rides on military flights to get to islands which might otherwise be inaccessible.

The military has set up command posts in Jakarta and Medan to help the victims' families, Supriatna said.

Antara reported that the plane hit a busy road that connects Medan with the highland tourist resort of Brastagi.

CNN's David Molko reported from Jakarta, and CNN's Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Kathy Quiano and journalist Tasha Tampubolon contributed to this report.

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