JAKARTA, Indonesia – An Indonesian military plane carrying more than 100 people crashed into several homes and burst into flames today, killing at least 79 people, officials said.
Dozens were injured and more were feared dead, with local television flashing footage of fire engulfing the mangled wreckage. Black smoke billowed in the air, as soldiers carried badly burnt bodies on stretchers to waiting ambulances.
Military spokesman Sagom Tamboen said the C-130 Hercules was transporting troops and their families, including at least 10 children, when it tumbled from the sky near an air force base in East Java province.
It smashed into a row of houses in Geplak village, killing three on the ground, before skidding into a rice field.
The tail of the plane and several large parts of its charred body were scattered in the paddy and nearby bushes.
It was not clear what caused the crash, the latest in a string to hit the air force.
But several witnesses described hearing a large explosion while it was still in the air and then seeing it split apart.
“One of the wings fell off,” Agus Yulianto, a villager, was quoted as saying on the Web site of Kompas newspaper. “Then the plane nose-dived into the houses.”
The plane was carrying 112 passengers and crew.
The area was sealed off with yellow police tape, but some villagers were seen throwing buckets of water and sand at the flames in a desperate attempt to help.
The accident occurred 325 miles east of the capital, Jakarta.