, JAKARTA, May 20 – An Indonesian military transport plane carrying soldiers and their families crashed into homes and erupted in flames on Wednesday, killing at least 78 people, the air force spokesman said.
Television footage showed the burning wreckage of the Hercules scattered in rice paddies in Magetan, East Java, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) east of Yogyakarta.
"The latest data that I have received is there have been 78 people killed in the accident… This number can rise because the evacuation process is still going on," air force spokesman Bambang Sulistio told AFP.
The plane was carrying 11 crew and 98 passengers including soldiers and their families, among them 10 children, on a flight to the eastern province of Papua, military spokesman Sagom Tamboen said.
Witnesses said the plane smashed into houses before erupting in a ball of flame as it rolled into a paddy field.
"The plane hit some houses, bounced, hit the ground and then caught fire," one witness told Metro TV.
The plane’s massive tail section could be seen resting upside down and badly damaged in the green rice field, but the rest of the fuselage had burned down to its metal frame.
Burning wreckage was scattered over a large area and soldiers were helping pull bodies from the wreckage and the thick mud of the paddy.
The crash occurred as the plane was preparing to land at nearby Iswahyudi military airbase on its way to Papua.
It is the second accident involving an Indonesian air force Hercules in two weeks, after one overshot the runway of Wamena airport in Papua on May 10. One person was reportedly injured in that incident.
In response to the Wamena accident, the air force said it would check its Hercules fleet, which is being upgraded with airframe and engine capability improvements.
Early last month, 24 military personnel died when their Fokker 27 training aircraft careered into a hangar and burst into flames at an air base in West Java.
Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation and relies heavily on air travel, but accidents are common and its commercial airlines are banned from flying in European Union airspace for safety reasons.