Indonesian ship catches signal believed to be from crashed plane (2nd Ld)

Jakarta, Jan 10 (IANS) Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said on Sunday that a naval ship deployed to search for the Sriwijaya Air plane that crashed into the waters off Jakarta has caught a signal at the accident site.

The Boeing 737-500 aircraft, flying from the capital Jakarta to Pontianak city in West Kalimantan province on Saturday afternoon, crashed into the Java Sea off the Seribu District in north of Jakarta, reports Xinhua news agency.

It was carrying 50 passengers, including 10 children and 12 crew members.

In a statement on Sunday, Tjahjanto said naval ship KRI Rigela equipped with a remote-operated vehicle, which arrived at the search location at 3 a.m., detected the signal possibly from the aircraft.

“Based on the results of monitoring, and according to the coordinates given from the last contact, it is strongly suspected that there was a signal from the plane,” he said.

Meanwhile, divers have found a tire and more debris of the crashed plane.

A local TV footage showed rescuers lifting a tire of the Boeing 737-500 plane from the sea, and underwater equipment displaying a lot of debris at the sea floor with the depth of 23 metres.

Spokesman of the National Search and Rescue Office (Basarnas) Yusuf Latief told Xinhua that some pieces of the debris have been collected from the scene.

A total of 362 rescuers with 38 ships, some of them equipped with multi-beam echo-sounders and remotely operated vehicles (ROV) to detect objects underwater, were searching for the victims and the wreckage of the budget airline plane, he said.

“The ships will search for the location of the fuselage of the plane,” Latief said.

The search was also carried out by air and land as the strong current might bring the debris to the coast of nearby islands, according to him.

Head of the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency Bagus Puruhito said the focus of the operation was to recover the victims and search for the source of two signals of emergency locator transmitter (ELT) caught by the rescuers.

He said the sea floor contained mud, expecting that the two black boxes of the aircraft would be there.

“Now we are attempting to reach the source which is expected to be the black boxes,” Puruhito said.

President Joko Widodo on Sunday expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, saying at a press conference: “I am on behalf of the government and all the Indonesian people to express my deep condolences over this tragedy.”

The President urged the rescue team and the military to complete the search for the missing plane as soon as possible and salvage the victims.

The last plane crash in Indonesia took place in October 2018 when a Lion Air flight plunged into the sea about 12 minutes after take-off from Jakarta.

A total of 189 people died in that crash.

It was one of two crashes that led regulators to pull the Boeing 737 Max from service all across the world.

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