PM Howard says 10 Australians in crash
Up to 10 Australians were on board a Garuda jet that crashed in Indonesia today, killing dozens of people, Prime Minister John Howard says.
"I'm very sorry to inform you there appears to have been a very serious plane crash in Yogyakarta where a Garuda jet appears to have overshot the runway," Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
"There appears to have been a significant loss of life.
"There were up to 10 Australians on board and not all of those have been accounted for."
Sources from the Australian embassy in Jakarta later said a C-130 Hercules transport plane was believed to be on standby in Darwin to fly to Yogyakarta to evacuate injured Australians.
They said an Australian embassy staffer had been taken to hospital for treatment with unknown injuries. Two Australian Federal Police are also believed to have been injured along with an SBS cameraman, the sources said.
However, SBS later said they did not have a cameraman on the flight. He was pulled from the flight last week.
At least one Australian journalist, Fairfax's Cynthia Banham, survived the crash, her colleagues have been told. A freelance cameraman working for Australia's Seven Network had also survived, Sky TV said.
The reporters and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) staff were taking part in a tour of Indonesia by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer who was not on the plane.
Mr Howard said he had spoken to Mr Downer about the crash, and had given the nod for Australia to provide emergency aid for the injured.
"I've given authority for any aircraft, medical assistance and the like that is needed - not only for the Australians but for others involved in the accident - to be made available immediately," he said.
The Australian government has activated a multi-agency crisis centre in response to the crash. At least one Australian has survived the crash of a passenger jet carrying Australian journalists and diplomats in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.
One of the injured survivors is Sydney Morning Herald journalist Cynthia Banham, who had been covering the visit of Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to the region.
Mr Downer was not travelling on the plane.
A freelance cameraman working for Australia's Seven Network had also survived, Sky TV said. Dozens of people are feared dead after the Boeing 737-400 Garuda airliner burst into flames on landing at Yogyakarta airport about 7am local time (1100 AEDT).
Garuda said the plane was carrying 140 passengers and crew.
A survivor of the Indonesian plane crash says he saw one of several Australian passengers being rescued from the wreckage. Passenger Dien Syamsudin said the Australian journalists and diplomats on board the flight were travelling in business class.
Mr Syamsudin, who was travelling in economy class, said the plane shook violently before it approached the runway.
The plane hit the ground very hard on landing, he said.
Mr Syamsudin, who was injured in the crash landing, said he was not sure when the first explosions happened, but believed the plane had overshot the runway. "I saw on the landing, one Australian friend was rescued by the medical team," he told Sky News, in broken English.
"There was maybe something wrong with the engine."
"The aircraft was (in a) hard landing."
Although details could not immediately be confirmed, Australia's Sky TV said the Australians on the aircraft included one foreign affairs department official, a federal policeman and "at least five media representatives".
There were 76 survivors following the accident, Indonesia's Minister of Transport Hatta Rajasa told Indonesia's Metro TV station. "16 people were brought into the hospital, with injuries ranging from bad to minor," Paulus, from the Panti Rini hospital, told ElShinta.
Around 50 injured people had been taken to a separate, air force hospital near the airport, a Metro TV report said. "The plane overshot the runway during landing and hit the airport fences," Julianto, one of the survivors, told Metro TV.
"I was sitting at the back of the plane and people started to jump out of the plane after that. Some even jumped into the paddy field," he said, in remarks quoted by Reuters.
The plane's fuselage was burned to a twisted shell, and thick white smoke spewed from the wreckage. "I saw many bodies, dozens of bodies badly burnt near the exit," Captain Yos Bintoro, an airport official, told Elshinta radio.
"I saw people dead in the cockpit. I cannot say if that's the pilot or co-pilot," he said.
"The plane is completely burnt. The fire erupted suddenly from the front wheel," one witness, Hariman, told ElShinta radio.
"There were three loud explosions when the plane was trying to land," another witness told Elshinta radio.
"It was immediately followed by huge fire, which engulfed the jetliner."
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