At least 116 people are feared dead after a military transport plane crashed into a residential area shortly after take-off in northern Indonesia on Tuesday.
Officials said the C-130B Hercules aircraft, which went into service half a century ago, had been on its way from an air force base in Medan to Tanjung Pinang in Riau Islands off Sumatra when it plunged into a built-up area of Medan. Several witnesses told reporters the aircraft appeared to explode shortly before it smashed into houses and a hotel.
"It passed overhead a few times, really low," said Elfrida Efi, a receptionist at the nearby Golden Eleven Hotel. "There was fire and black smoke. The third time it came by it crashed into the roof of the hotel and exploded straight away," she told Reuters by telephone.
An official at a nearby hospital who declined to be named said that 55 bodies had been brought in so far. Air force chief Agus Supriatna said the manifest showed there were 113 people on board the plane - 12 crew and 101 passengers - when it crashed, and he did not believe any had survived.
"For the moment we know there were 113 people (on board). It looks like there are no survivors," he told Metro TV in the Sumatra city of Medan, adding that some of the passengers were air force families. At least one child has so far been confirmed killed, the AP reports.
Air force spokesman Dwi Badarmanto said it was unclear what caused the crash, which took place at noon local time. He emphasized that until the cause is discovered, eight other C-130Bs would be grounded.
However, an Al Jazeera correspondent revealed that two minutes into the flight, the pilot radioed in, saying there was a "technical issue" with the plane.
"He tried to turn back and then the plane went down over Medan. The plane went down in a populated area, hitting two empty buildings. That number could have been much higher," the correspondent told the news source.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 10 fatal crashes involving Indonesian military or police aircraft over the last decade. Reuters notes that the "accidents put under a spotlight the safety record of Indonesia's aviation and its aging aircraft."
"This incident shows us that we must renew our aircraft and our military equipment," Pramono Anung, a lawmaker and member of the parliamentary commission overseeing defense, told the news source.
"The Hercules is already old, many of our other (weapons) systems are already old. As parliament we will support giving more funding to the military so that they can upgrade."
This is the region's second deadly crash in seven months; in December, AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, killing all 162 people on board.
"It's too early to say what caused today's disaster, but it will again raise concerns about air safety in Indonesia, especially since it comes just half a year after the crash of QZ8501," said Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor at Flightglobal.
On Tuesday morning, Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed sorrow at the accident, tweeting: "May the families be given patience and strength... May we remain protected from disaster."