An Indonesian air liner has crashed into the sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta with 189 people on board.
Fears for passengers and crew aboard the Lion Air Boeing 737 jet were growing as search-and-rescue workers attempted to sift through wreckage in waters up to 35m deep.
Indonesia’s disaster agency posted photos online of a crushed smartphone, books, bags and parts of the aircraft fuselage that had been collected by teams that converged on the area. Television pictures showed a fuel slick and a field of debris.
Low-cost airline Lion Air said the brand-new aircraft, on a short-haul flight to Pangkal Pinang near Sumatra, was carrying 181 passengers, including one child and two babies, and eight crew members.
One woman there said her sister, who was about to get married, had been on board the flight. “We are here to find any information about my younger sister, her fiance, her in-law to be and a friend of them,” she said.
Wiping away tears from reddened eyes, she added: “No one provided us with any information that we need. We’re confused. We hope that our family is still alive.”
At least 23 Indonesian government officials were on the flight and the country’s finance minister, Sri Mulyani, also arrived at the agency’s offices to question staff.
There were also two foreigners on board: an Indian pilot named by the country’s Jakarta embassy as Bhavye Suneja and an Italian citizen.
About 300 people including police officers, fishermen and soldiers are involved in the search. The bodies of passengers, ID cards, personal belongings and aircraft debris are starting to be pulled from the waters where the plane sank.
Black body bags containing the remains of people on board when the aircraft hit the water are being laid out at Tanjung Priok Harbour, a major container port to the north of Jakarta.
“We don’t know yet whether there are any survivors,” rescue agency chief Muhmmad Syaugi told reporters, adding that no distress signal had been received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter.
The president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, said that he had ordered the National Commission for Transportation Safety to begin an investigation immediately.
Speaking at a conference in Bali, Mr Widodo said that he felt the anxiety of the families waiting for news of their loved ones and urged Indonesians to “keep on praying”.
Lion Air’s president-director Edward Sirait said the jet had had a “technical problem” during its previous flight from Bali to Jakarta but that the problem had been fully repaired.