Rescuers combed through burnt wreckage in a residential neighbourhood in Medan, Indonesia's third largest city, after an Indonesian air force transport plane carrying 113 people crashed yesterday, killing everyone on board.
The Lockheed C-130B Hercules ploughed into a small hotel and a massage parlour in the North Sumatran city, before exploding in a fireball, said eyewitnesses.
Officials said there were 12 crew and 101 passengers on board, including families of military personnel. On the ground, at least three people were killed, according to the local search and rescue agency. As of last night, 23 out of 66 bodies recovered had been identified. At least one child was confirmed dead.
President Joko Widodo said that evacuation of the victims must be the priority. He also expressed sorrow at the incident. "May the families be given patience and strength... May we remain protected from disaster," he tweeted.
Anxious residents gathered around the site in Jamin Ginting Road Km 10, which has been cordoned off by police, while ambulances took bodies to the hospital.
The plane took off at 11.48am (12.48pm Singapore time) from Soewondo Air Force base in Medan en route to Tanjung Pinang, capital of the Riau Islands province, and the Natuna Islands.
It crashed just minutes later.
Local reports said the pilot made a request to return to base shortly after take-off. The wreckage was found about 5km from the airport.
Air Chief Marshal Agus Supriatna, who is Air Force chief, inspected the crash site yesterday and told reporters the aircraft might have suffered engine trouble. But he added that the plane was in "very good condition" and had made several stops before arriving in Medan.
Air Force spokesman Dwi Badarmanto told Reuters it was unclear what caused the crash and, until it was, eight other C-130Bs would be grounded. The ill-fated plane, which had been in operation since 1964, was on a routine mission to transport personnel being deployed to various areas.
The crash puts a spotlight on Indonesia's poor aviation safety record. At least 11 people were killed when a Fokker-27 military jet crashed into a housing complex in Jakarta in June 2012. In December, an AirAsia passenger plane crashed en route from Surabaya to Singapore, killing all 162 people on board.
Analyst Muradi, who teaches defence politics and security at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java, said most of the country's military aircraft are ageing. New equipment was badly needed, he added.
Additional reporting by Zubaidah Nazeer