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Plane wreckage spotted

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JAYAPURA, Indonesia—An airplane with 54 people on board that crashed in the mountains of eastern Indonesia was carrying nearly half-a-million dollars in government cash for poor families to help offset a spike in fuel prices, an official said today.

Smouldering wreckage of the Trigana Air Service turboprop plane was spotted from the air this morning in a rugged area of Papua, rescue officials said.

There was no immediate word of any survivors from yesterday’s crash, which happened in bad weather.

Four postal workers aboard the plane were escorting four bags of cash totalling $468,750 in government fuel aid, Franciscus Haryono, the head of the post office in Jayapura, the provincial capital, told The Associated Press.

The cash was to be distributed among poor people in remote areas to cushion the jump in fuel costs, Haryono said.

The ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane was flying from Jayapura to the city of Oksibil when it lost contact.

Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata said there was no indication the pilot had made a distress call.

Officials said three search planes spotted the wreckage about 12 km from Oksibil.

Search and rescue operations involving about 10 aircraft were halted Monday evening because of darkness and would resume early Tuesday, said Heronimus Guru, deputy operations director of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

The plane was carrying 49 passengers and five crew members on a scheduled 42-minute flight.

Five children, including two infants, were among the passengers.

“Smoke was still billowing from the wreckage when it was spotted by a plane search,” said Henry Bambang Soelistyo, the chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

He said bad weather and rugged terrain were hampering efforts to reach the wreckage, located at an altitude of 2,600 metres.

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