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Airplane Crash in Indonesia Kills 104 on Board and 39 on Ground<P>By Jane Perlez THE NEW YORK TIMES <P>JAKARTA, INDONESIA <P>

Airplane Crash in Indonesia Kills
104 on Board and 39 on Ground

By Jane Perlez


An Indonesian Boeing 737 passenger plane crashed into a crowded neighborhood shortly after takeoff in the northern city of Medan on Monday, killing 104 people aboard and 39 on the ground.

The operator, Mandala Airlines, said 13 people sitting in the rear survived the fire that engulfed the plane when it hit a busy road 500 yards from the airport in mid-morning.

About 20 houses caught fire and cars on the road, a major one to the airport, were ablaze. People with their clothes alight screamed for help, and drivers later described escaping their burning vehicles.

Several survivors said the plane, which was headed for the capital, Jakarta, made a shaky takeoff and crashed just as the flight attendant had finished the announcement about safety procedures.

“When the plane started to take off it was shaking,” Fredy Ismail, 53, a survivor who was treated at the Adam Malik hospital, was quoted as saying by an Indonesian Web news service. “The stewardess was going to sit down after making her announcement when the plane crashed.”

Ismail said he was in seat 20 E near the toilet in the tail of the plane. After the crash, a wall in the back of the plane cracked open and he managed to crawl through it before the fire broke out, he said. About 10 other people also escaped through the tail area, he said.

Another survivor, Rohaid Sitepu, said the plane swerved to the left immediately after takeoff. “Then a ball of fire came from the front of the plane toward the end,” Sitepu told Metro TV, a major news channel.

Mandala Airlines, a low-fare carrier that is partly owned by the Indonesian military, said the plane had 112 passengers and a crew of five.

Mandala Airlines is a relatively small carrier and one of the oldest in Indonesia. Its fleet of 15 planes consists mainly of aging 737-200 jets like the one that crashed Monday, which was nearly 25 years old, the airline said.